Black Carbon (BC), which is emitted in a variety of combustion processes, is a short-lived component of atmospheric aerosols, remaining in the atmosphere on time scales of a few days to a few weeks. BC is the strongest light-absorbing component of atmospheric aerosols. When deposited and accumulated on ice surfaces, BC can accelerate a decline in summer sea ice, warmer temperatures, changes in vegetation, permafrost degradation, and other ecological and environmental changes with potential worldwide implications. BC is more dynamic than long-lived climate forcers such as CO2, with emissions increasing during industrialization and decreasing from pollution emissions controls, however these changes are distributed heterogeneously both spatially and temporally.

Following the 2009 Climate Summit in Copenhagen, in 2011 the Department of State (DOS) committed funding to better understand all sources of BC emissions affecting the Russian Arctic. Specifically, the DOS initiated a collaborative, inter-agency study in the following areas:

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — BC emissions from diesel transportation;
  • United States Forest Service (USDA-FS) — BC emissions from biomass combustion; and
  • Department of Energy (DOE) — BC emissions from fossil and biomass fuels used in heating, power generation, and industrial applications.

While each study progressed independently, inter-agency collaboration was critical to fully understanding the atmospheric transport and fate of all sources of BC affecting the Russian Arctic. This website presents results from the DOE study and includes inter-agency collaborative efforts that have occurred over the course of this study.

Key factors known to contribute to BC presence in the Arctic include: geographic origin, major fuel type and industrial contributors, and effect of seasonal variability of Arctic BC emissions. However, there is little information available regarding these factors. As part of the effort to implement effective emission control, the DOE study sought to address these critical gaps in information.

In support of the Arctic Black Carbon Initiative (ABCI), DOE sought to minimize BC emissions from industrial, district heating and cooling (DHC), combined heat and power (CHP), and other power sector sources in Russia. To accomplish this, DOE/ORNL pursued the following activities:

  1. Identified the location of BC emissions sources to enable strategic deployment of emissions control technologies to the sources;
  2. Improved estimates of BC emissions in the regions surrounding the Arctic with an emphasis on DHC and CHP sources by working with a range of researchers and stakeholders to significantly improve upon available emissions inventories, and perform data assurance and quality control;
  3. Provided outreach, developed a visualization tool, and developed this website to build capacity for effective future efforts to reduce Arctic BC emissions. .

All of these activities contribute to the broader inter-agency efforts underway throughout the U.S. government to reduce emissions of BC and other short-lived climate forcers.