There is already much excitement in the arts, media and beyond about the potential of crowdfunding – via sites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo – to finance projects that might others have remained an unfulfilled dream. To date, though, few scientific expeditions have successfully utilised crowd-funding.
The Dark Snow Project hopes to change this. Jason Box, a climatologist based at the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University, is hoping to raise $150,000 over the coming months to pay for an expedition this summer up onto the “ice dome” of Greenland to gather samples of snow. The project’s website explains:
Dark Snow is a field and lab project to measure the impact of changing wildfire and industrial soot on snow and ice reflectivity. Soot darkens snow and ice, increasing solar energy absorption, hastening the melt of the “cryosphere”.
The climatic impact of “black carbon” and wildfire smoke is much in the news and yet remains little understood. Last year, Box presented satellite observations (pdf) showing how soot particles drifting from tundra wildfires spread across Greenland. The big as-yet-unanswered question is whether this soot contributed towards the region’s record melt during the summer of 2012. And, if so, by how much.
They’ve already raised $72,000 of the necessary $150,000. It’s a wonderful way for members of the public to directly help scientists further our understanding of climate change.