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 Global study of world's beaches shows threat to protected areas
19.07.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht NSF-supported researchers to present new results on hurricanes and other extreme events
19.07.2018 | National Science Foundation

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>