Fire disturbance effects on land surface albedo in Alaskan tundra

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The study uses satellite Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer albedo products (MCD43A3) to assess changes in albedo at two sites in the treeless tundra region of Alaska, both within the foothills region of the Brooks Range, the 2007 Anaktuvuk River Fire (ARF) and 2012 Kucher Creek Fire (KCF). Results are compared to each other and other studies to assess the magnitude of albedo change and the longevity of impact of fire on land surface albedo. In both sites there was a marked decrease of albedo in the year following the fire. In the ARF, albedo slowly increased until 4 years after the fire, when it returned to albedo values prior to the fire. For the year immediately after the fire, a threefold difference in the shortwave albedo decrease was found between the two sites. ARF showed a 45.3% decrease, while the KCF showed a 14.1% decrease in shortwave albedo, and albedo is more variable in the KCF site than ARF site 1 year after the fire. These differences are possibly the result of differences in burn severity of the two fires, wherein the ARF burned more completely with more contiguous patches of complete burn than KCF. The impact of fire on average growing season (April–September) surface shortwave forcing in the year following fire is estimated to be 13.24 ± 6.52 W m−2 at the ARF site, a forcing comparable to studies in other treeless ecosystems. Comparison to boreal studies and the implications to energy flux are discussed in the context of future increases in fire occurrence and severity in a warming climate.

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©2016. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1002/2015JG003177

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences