Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NCAR scientists investigate air above Antarctica

11.12.2003


Four scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are studying the chemistry of sulfur and nitrogen in the air above Antarctica. The investigation will help them understand the continent’s chemical processes better, as well as refine scientists’ interpretations of ice cores, which provide information on past climates.



The expedition, which runs through January 4, is part of the Antarctic Tropospheric Chemistry Investigation (ANTCI), a four-year program funded by NCAR’s primary sponsor, the National Science Foundation. Along with NCAR, 10 universities and federal laboratories are participating in the investigation.

"The atmosphere of Antarctica is probably the least explored part of the lower atmosphere on the planet right now. This is the first time people have looked at any of these chemical processes in this environment," says Lee Mauldin, a chemist from NCAR and one of the project’s co-investigators.


The scientists are studying sulfur to learn more about its oxidation processes, or how it reacts with oxygen. Natural sources of sulfur in the atmosphere include emissions from volcanoes and the oceans. In Antarctica sulfur is released into the air mainly in the form of dimethyl sulfide, a reduced form of sulfur. In the air over Antarctica, the dimethyl sulfide reacts with oxygen to form sulfates. The sulfates are eventually transferred from the air to snow and fall to the ground, where they become part of the snow pack. Scientists drill ice cores deep into the snow pack and measure their sulfate concentrations to determine past geophysical events such as volcanic eruptions, El Niño episodes, and climate change.

The scientists are also studying nitrogen chemistry because they’ve found evidence of high levels of atmospheric nitric oxide, a reactive form of nitrogen, at the South Pole. In most regions of the world, nitric oxide is considered a pollutant, but it occurs naturally at the Pole when the sun shines on nitrate in the snow and a photochemical reaction releases the nitric oxide into the air. Levels are nearly 10 times higher at the Pole than in other parts of Antarctica.

"Sunlight releasing the nitric oxide in the snow is a unique phenomenon that nobody has seen before at the Pole. These levels bring the oxidizing capacity at the South Pole on par with that observed in the tropics, a region where this capacity is expected to be high," Mauldin says. "As to the source of the nitrate in the snow, we don’t know that yet," he adds.

Mauldin says that one of the reasons it is important to understand sulfur and nitrogen processes in Antarctica is because they are natural phenomena happening in one of the more remote regions of the planet. "You need to understand background processes in order to differentiate them from anthropogenic [human-caused] processes when you look at more complicated areas," he says.

Scientists will measure the chemicals from the ground at the South Pole and from the air in different locations above Antarctica. During the airborne component, they’ll fly from McMurdo Station on the coast in a Twin Otter aircraft with air-sampling instruments on board.

As part of ANTCI’s outreach component, a high school teacher from Rockdale County High School in Conyers, Georgia, is accompanying the scientists and will communicate with her students via an interactive Web site that is also available to the public. The teacher, Jill Beach, will help set up experiments, prepare instruments, and compile data, in addition to maintaining the Web site.

"Not only will it be helpful to have another set of hands, but Jill’s going to be able to provide a unique outlook to people back home," Mauldin says.

The scientists will return to Antarctica to take more airborne measurements in 2005 or 2006.


The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research under primary sponsorship by the National Science Foundation. Opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Anatta | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://antci.acd.ucar.edu
http://www.ucar.edu/ucar/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Stagnation in the South Pacific Explains Natural CO2 Fluctuations
23.02.2018 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

nachricht First evidence of surprising ocean warming around Galápagos corals
22.02.2018 | University of Arizona

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>