As snow falls, it carries whatever is in the air with it into the snowpack. Over the past decade, scientists have learned that the chemicals that accumulate in the snow over the long, dark arctic winter react rapidly when they are exposed to the sun in the spring. These sunlight-driven reactions (photochemistry) in snow release a number of pollutants to the lower atmosphere. A team of scientists worked at Summit, Greenland to find out how snow photochemistry affects the composition of the snow and the atmosphere above it by sampling and analyzing reactive chemicals in the snow and in the air, measuring the sunlight in the snowpack, and determining physical properties of the snow.
The team traveled to Summit Station, located at the peak of the Greenland ice cap atop 3200 meters of ice. Summit is a scientific research station sponsored by the National Science Foundation that supports a diversity of scientific research, including year-round measurements of air-snow interactions that provide crucial knowledge for interpreting data from deep ice cores drilled both at Summit and elsewhere. Learn more about Summit at the Summit Station website.
Craig Beals has spent countless hours chasing game, camping in the mountains, and fly-casting for rainbow trout while growing up in Montana. These experiences gave him an early appreciation for nature and a passion for the outdoors, which continues today. Upon graduating from Montana State University with a degree in Biology, Mr. Beals took a teaching position at Billings Senior High School to teach Earth Science where he continues to share his fervor for the outdoors and his enthusiasm for science with young people. Mr. Beals also makes sure to enjoy the simple things in life including his family, friends, and beloved dog, “Danger”. He lives by the motto, “If you are going to clap, make some noise”. He hopes that his PolarTREC experience will enable him to be immersed in practical, purposeful science.
Barry Lefer is an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Houston in Texas. He earned an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire and worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado before moving to Houston. His research has included several aspects of air quality and climate change. He worked with PolarTREC teacher Jo Dodds at Summit in 2007 and believes that there is nothing better than first hand personal experience to get students involved and excited about science.