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MSU research group uses drones to examine climate trends in Alaska

A team of researchers from Montana State University’s College of Agriculture brought drones to examine climate trends to Fairbanks, Alaska. The research group will use data from the drones in combination with ground measurements and data from other sources to improve their understanding of how the climate might be changing.

Photo: Researchers from the Montana State University Land Resources Environmental Sciences department recently traveled to Alaska to collect data on thawing permafrost soils in boreal and arctic regions. Courtesy of MSU News Service.

Drones used to examine climate trends in Alaska

Reagan Colyer writes for the MSU News Service that:

A team of researchers from Montana State University’s College of Agriculture traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska, this summer to collect data they hope will help advance understanding of how thawing permafrost contributes to boreal greenhouse gas emissions.

…as permafrost thaws it creates wetlands, which are key for climate research because they emit methane, a greenhouse gas up to 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Powell, a drone specialist with a background in forest ecology and remote sensing, led the technological side of the field trip and the sample collection.

Because variables like vegetation growth and soil temperature can vary widely over the boreal and sub-Arctic terrain of Alaska, attempting to extrapolate data drawn from fine-scale drone images can lead to inaccurate conclusions about trends over larger areas. Part of Farina’s ongoing research will include combining data from the team’s drones and ground measurements with satellite data and data from a NASA project in the Fairbanks area that uses aerial imaging to collect images from an altitude higher than drones but lower than satellites. Hopefully this will improve the accuracy of those extrapolations.

You can read the entire article here. You can read more articles about drones being used for research here.

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Avatar for Haye Kesteloo Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at DroneDJ, where he covers all drone related news and writes product reviews. He also contributes to the other sites in the 9to5Mac group such as; 9to5Mac, 9to5Google, 9to5Toys and Electrek. Haye can be reached at or @hayekesteloo