Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sea ice decline driving changes in arctic air pollutants

02.03.2012
Drastic reductions in Arctic sea ice in the last decade may be intensifying the chemical release of bromine into the atmosphere, resulting in ground-level ozone depletion and the deposit of toxic mercury in the Arctic, according to a new NASA-led study.

The connection between changes in the Arctic Ocean's ice cover and bromine chemical processes is determined by the interaction between the salt in sea ice, frigid temperatures and sunlight.

When these mix, the salty ice releases bromine into the air and starts a cascade of chemical reactions called a "bromine explosion." These reactions rapidly create more molecules of bromine monoxide in the atmosphere. Bromine then reacts with a gaseous form of mercury, turning it into a pollutant that falls to Earth's surface.

Bromine also can remove ozone from the lowest layer of the atmosphere, the troposphere.

Despite ozone's beneficial role blocking harmful radiation in the stratosphere, ozone is a pollutant in the ground-level troposphere.

A team from the United States, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom, led by Son Nghiem of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., produced the study, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. The team combined data from six NASA, European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency satellites, field observations and a model of how air moves in the atmosphere to link Arctic sea ice changes to bromine explosions over the Beaufort Sea, extending to the Amundsen Gulf in the Canadian Arctic.

"Shrinking summer sea ice has drawn much attention to exploiting Arctic resources and improving maritime trading routes," Nghiem said. "But the change in sea ice composition also has impacts on the environment. Changing conditions in the Arctic might increase bromine explosions in the future."

The study was undertaken to better understand the fundamental nature of bromine explosions, which first were observed in the Canadian Arctic more than two decades ago. The team of scientists wanted to find if the explosions occur in the troposphere or higher in the stratosphere.

Nghiem's team used the topography of mountain ranges in Alaska and Canada as a "ruler" to measure the altitude at which the explosions took place. In the spring of 2008, satellites detected increased concentrations of bromine, which were associated with a decrease of gaseous mercury and ozone. After the researchers verified the satellite observations with field measurements, they used an atmospheric model to study how the wind transported the bromine plumes across the

Arctic.

The model, together with satellite observations, showed the Alaskan Brooks Range and the Canadian Richardson and Mackenzie mountains stopped bromine from moving into Alaska's interior. Since most of these mountains are lower than 6,560 feet (2,000 meters), the researchers determined the bromine explosion was confined to the lower troposphere.

"If the bromine explosion had been in the stratosphere, 5 miles [8 kilometers] or higher above the ground, the mountains would not have been able to stop it and the bromine would have been transported inland," Nghiem said.

After the researchers found that bromine explosions occur in the lowest level of the atmosphere, they could relate their origin to sources on the surface. Their model, tracing air rising from the salty ice, tied the bromine releases to recent changes in Arctic sea ice that have led to a much saltier sea ice surface.

In March 2008, the extent of year-round perennial sea ice eclipsed the 50-year record low set in March 2007, shrinking by 386,100 square miles (one million square kilometers) -- an area the size of Texas and Arizona combined. Seasonal ice, which forms over the winter when seawater freezes, now occupies the space of the lost perennial ice. This younger ice is much saltier than its older counterpart because it has not had time to undergo processes that drain its sea salts. It also contains more frost flowers -- clumps of ice crystals up to four times saltier than ocean waters -- providing more salt sources to fuel bromine releases.

Nghiem said if sea ice continues to be dominated by younger saltier ice, and Arctic extreme cold spells occur more often, bromine explosions are likely to increase in the future.

Nghiem is leading an Arctic field campaign this month that will provide new insights into bromine explosions and their impacts. NASA's Bromine, Ozone, and Mercury Experiment (BROMEX) involves international contributions by more than 20 organizations. The new studies will complement those of a previously conducted NASA field campaign, Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites (ARCTAS), which is providing scientists with valuable data for studies of bromine.

Notes for Journalists
Journalists and public information officers (PIOs) of educational and scientific institutions who have registered with AGU can download a PDF copy of this paper in press by clicking on this link:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2011JD016268

Or, you may order a copy of the final paper by emailing your request to Kate Ramsayer at kramsayer@agu.org. Please provide your name, the name of your publication, and your phone number.

Neither the paper nor this press release are under embargo.

Title:
"Field and satellite observations of the formation and distribution of Arctic atmospheric bromine above a rejuvenated sea ice cover"
Authors:
Son V. Nghiem: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA;

Ignatius G. Rigor: Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA;

Andreas Richter: Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany;

John P. Burrows: Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany, and Biogeochemistry Programme, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingtonford, Oxfordshire, UK;

Paul B. Shepson: Purdue Climate Change Research Center, Departments of Chemistry and Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Lafayette, Indiana, USA;

Jan Bottenheim: Science and Technology Branch, Environment Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;

David G. Barber: Center for Earth Observation Science, Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada;

Alexandra Steffen: Science and Technology Branch, Environment Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;

Jeff Latonas: Center for Earth Observation Science, Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada;

Feiyue Wang: Center for Earth Observation Science, Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and Department of Chemistry, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada;

Gary Stern: Center for Earth Observation Science, Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and Freshwater Institute, Department of Fishery and Oceans, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada;

Pablo Clemente-Colón: National Ice Center, Washington, DC, USA;

Seelye Martin: School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA;

Dorothy K. Hall: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA;

Lars Kaleschke: Institute of Oceanography, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany;

Philip Tackett: Purdue Climate Change Research Center, Departments of Chemistry and Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Lafayette, Indiana, USA;

Gregory Neumann: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA;

Matthew G. Asplin: Center for Earth Observation Science, Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Contact information for the authors:
Son V. Nghiem, Email: Son.V.Nghiem@jpl.nasa.gov
AGU Contact:
Kate Ramsayer
+1 (202) 777-7524
kramsayer@agu.org
NASA Contacts:
Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington
+1 (202) 358-1726
dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov
Alan Buis
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
+1 (818) 354-0474
alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov

Kate Ramsayer | American Geophysical Union
Further information:
http://www.agu.org
http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2011JD016268

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New studies increase confidence in NASA's measure of Earth's temperature
24.05.2019 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht New Measurement Device: Carbon Dioxide As Geothermometer
21.05.2019 | Universität Heidelberg

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New studies increase confidence in NASA's measure of Earth's temperature

A new assessment of NASA's record of global temperatures revealed that the agency's estimate of Earth's long-term temperature rise in recent decades is accurate to within less than a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, providing confidence that past and future research is correctly capturing rising surface temperatures.

The most complete assessment ever of statistical uncertainty within the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) data product shows that the annual values...

Im Focus: The geometry of an electron determined for the first time

Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.

The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

On Mars, sands shift to a different drum

24.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Piedmont Atlanta first in Georgia to offer new minimally invasive treatment for emphysema

24.05.2019 | Medical Engineering

Chemical juggling with three particles

24.05.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>