Tracking Southern Hemisphere black carbon to Antarctic snow

April 07, 2020

Black carbon (BC) measurements in Antarctica are still scarce, but necessary to understand the particle's effect in our climate, says Luciano Marquetto, a Ph.D. student from the Polar and Climatic Center, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

"Black carbon, or BC, commonly known as soot, is a particle originated from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass burning that warms the atmosphere. When deposited in snow and ice, BC increases surface radiation absorption and can cause melt," explains Mr. Marquetto. "Some scientists say that BC is second only to CO2 in its warming effects on the climate, and studies have shown that BC concentrations have risen since the industrial revolution in several places of the world, including Greenland, the Himalayas, the Alps and even Antarctica."

But studying BC in Antarctica is logistically challenging, and only in the last decade the topic has gained more attention. "Antarctica is a vast continent, and there are regions with no BC data yet. As climatic and atmospheric models rely on field data, studying BC concentrations in Antarctic snow is essential to improve these models", adds Mr. Marquetto.

Mr. Marquetto was part of a team of Brazilian researchers led by Dr. Jefferson Cardia Simões (Polar and Climatic Center) who carried out a traverse in West Antarctica in the 2014/2015 austral summer. They travelled more than 1400 km, collecting several shallow snow cores and samples along the way to investigate the snow chemistry (and consequently the atmospheric chemistry) in the last 50 years or so. One of these shallow cores was analyzed for BC in cooperation with Dr. Susan Kaspari (Central Washington University, USA).

"We observed very low BC concentrations in snow, lower than in other works in the continent. Due to that, in the article published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences we decided to focus on instrumental and methodological questions raised during the research that needed to be answered before going deeper into the environmental interpretation", Mr. Marquetto says.

"However, our ultimate goal is to better understand BC seasonal variability and overall concentrations to see what impact the particle has in Antarctic snow, as well as try to identify BC geographical sources. We are also interested in the BC size distribution in snow, as particle size affects the amount of solar radiation BC can absorb. Impacts in the atmosphere and in the cryosphere are possibly being under or overestimated due to simplified representations of BC particle size in climatic models", believes Mr. Marquetto.

"As for sectorial sources, we know biomass burning represents around 80% of all BC emitted to the atmosphere in the Southern Hemisphere, which means that the fires happening in Australia, New Zealand and South America ultimately leave a mark in Antarctic snow."

Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Related Antarctica Articles from Brightsurf:

Ice loss likely to continue in Antarctica
A new international study led by Monash University climate scientists has revealed that ice loss in Antarctica persisted for many centuries after it was initiated and is expected to continue.

Antarctica: cracks in the ice
In recent years, the Pine Island Glacier and the Thwaites Glacier on West-Antarctica have been undergoing rapid changes, with potentially major consequences for rising sea levels.

Equatorial winds ripple down to Antarctica
A CIRES-led team has uncovered a critical connection between winds at Earth's equator and atmospheric waves 6,000 miles away at the South Pole.

Antarctica more widely impacted by humans than previously thought
Using a data set of 2.7 million human activity records, the team showed just how extensive human use of Antarctica has been over the last 200 years

Antarctica more widely impacted than previously thought
Researchers at Australia's Monash University, using a data set of 2.7 million human activity records, have shown just how extensive human use of Antarctica has been over the last 200 years.

Predicting non-native invasions in Antarctica
A new study identifies the non-native species most likely to invade the Antarctic Peninsula region over the next decade.

Persistent drizzle at sub-zero temps in Antarctica
When the temperature drops below freezing, snow and ice are expected to follow.

Human 'footprint' on Antarctica measured for first time
The full extent of the human 'footprint' on Antarctica has been revealed for the first time by new IMAS-led research which used satellite images to measure stations, huts, runways, waste sites and tourist camps at 158 locations.

Iguana-sized dinosaur cousin discovered in Antarctica
Scientists have discovered the fossils of an iguana-sized reptile, which they named 'Antarctic king,' that lived at the South Pole 250 million years ago (it used to be warmer).

Scientists drill to record depths in West Antarctica
A team of scientists and engineers has for the first time successfully drilled over two kilometres through the ice sheet in West Antarctica using hot water.

Read More: Antarctica News and Antarctica Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to