Daniel Murphy: One could look out the window of the airplane and see the air colored brown as you were flying, even though you’re hundreds or thousands of miles from the nearest big city.
Daniel Murphy is describing a haze over the Arctic. Murphy is a lead scientist on a project to study Arctic air pollution for possible links to climate change in the far north. He told EarthSky that scientists suspect that air pollutants – created by human activities – are creating Arctic haze and speeding up polar ice melt. Murphy’s team loaded a P3 aircraft with nearly 30 scientific instruments to measure the quantity and characteristics of fine particles, clouds and trace gases. In April 2008 they made six data-gathering flights from Fairbanks, Alaska to points north.
Daniel Murphy: One of the reasons for going to the Arctic is that when particles interact with sunlight it makes a difference when there’s a white surface underneath the air or if there’s a normal continental or oceanic dark surface.
That’s because dark particles in the air, such as soot, warm the atmosphere more if they are over a white surface. Soot on the snow makes the snow melt faster. The team also wants to determine the origin of the pollutants.
Daniel Murphy: It’s pretty clear there’s more than one source. They’re coming from a variety of both locations, different parts of the world, and types of sources as well.
Our thanks today to NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Our thanks to:
NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Chemical Sciences Division
Photo Credit: Marco Antonio Torres
A 12-year veteran of environmental journalism, Dan Kulpinski is a frequent contributor to EarthSky. He also publishes the GreenListDC.org site and the GreenListDC Blog. Before joining EarthSky, he was a programming director at AOL and wrote the AOL Down to Earth blog.