composite photo, created by Staff Notes Monthly photographer
Carlye Calvin with the help of Photoshop, shows the
NSF C-130 aircraft flying over Colorado’s Front
Range as part of the Airborne Carbon in the Mountains
Experiment (ACME). The experiment, which is taking
place from May to July, will measure how much carbon
dioxide mountain forests remove from the air as spring
turns into summer.
Scientists from NCAR and
several outside organizations are using a dense
network of instruments on Niwot Ridge near Nederland,
in addition to the C-130, to gain an accurate picture
of carbon exchanges in rolling hills and mountain
ranges. “Today we usually look for carbon
in all the wrong places,” explains CGD’s
Dave Schimel, “focusing on where it’s
easy to measure rather than where fluxes are largest.” Although
most current studies are in flat areas, Dave and
his colleagues have estimated that 25-50% of U.S.
carbon uptake occurs in mountainous terrain.
assessments could help lead to an improved understanding
of carbon dioxide in Western mountain forests,
which are a potentially important sink for the
greenhouse gas. To measure the carbon, the C-130
will fly as low as 1,000 feet above the ground
in places along the Front Range near Boulder.