Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Atmospheric Hydrocarbons at GEOSummit, Greenland, as Tracers for Climate Change, Air Pollution Transport, and Oxidation Chemistry in the Arctic (Award# 1108391)

PI: Helmig, Detlev (
Phone: (303) 492.2509 
Institute/Department: U of Colorado, Boulder, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\AON
Program Manager: Dr. Jennifer Mercer (
Discipline(s): | Meteorology and Climate |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
The PI will collect four years of continuous measurements of atmospheric methane, and non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC: ethane, ethyne, propane, iso-butane, n-butane, iso-pentane, n-pentane, benzene, toluene) at the Greenland Environmental Observatory at Summit (GEOSummit). The project utilizes an existing monitoring system that has previously been operated at Summit . This gas chromatography instrument is specifically tailored towards operation at this remote arctic site as it is fully automated and remotely controllable. A second analytical channel will be added to include monitoring of the important climate gas methane with the same instrument. This project will deliver four years of continuous atmospheric concentration data of methane, with approximately two-hour time resolution, and nine C2-C7 NMHC at low parts per trillion sensitivity at Summit. These data will expand upon the previous 2008-2010 NMHC measurements from Summit, and will provide an overall eight year record for these gases (with a two year gap). These measurements will complement the NMHC monitoring within the NOAA-INSTAAR global flask sampling program, which has provided bi-weekly NMHC data for five arctic sites for the past seven years. The much higher resolution in-situ data from this study will add value to the interpretation of the NMHC flask records. By applying chemical transport modeling, the in-situ data will allow researchers to decipher air pollution transport into the Arctic and contributions from different emission source region contributions at lower latitudes. The methane and NMHC monitoring will make a pivotal contribution to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Global Atmospheric Watch (GAW) Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) program, as it will provide the only high time resolution in-situ NMHC site in the Arctic.

Logistics Summary:
This study contributes to the Arctic Observing Network (AON) and entails continuous monitoring of atmospheric methane and non-methane (C2-C7) hydrocarbons at Summit Station, Greenland. An existing monitoring system that was operated at Summit Station for two seasons from 2008 through 2010 and then moved to Toolik Field Station (both under NSF grant #0713943), returned to Greenland in the spring of 2012. The instrumentation operates year-round, with remote monitoring by the PI and in-situ attendance by CPS science technical staff. During 2012, a team of two researchers spent a week at the station in April to install the monitoring system, and one researcher returned to Summit for maintenance activities prior to station close-out in August 2012. Similarly, for the 2013 field season the research team made two trips to Summit Station, April and August During 2014, one researcher traveled to Summit Station in February with the CPS staff turnover crew to support critical instrument maintenance (routing commercially through Iceland and utilizing the already scheduled Twin Otter charter flights to / from Summit Station). During the main summer research season, participants from the research team will travel to Summit in mid-May, and again in mid-August, for additional instrument maintenance activities. Travel to / from Summit will be via the Air National Guard logistics chain through Scotia, NY, and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. During 2015 and 2016, one researcher will again travel to Summit Station in April/May to perform instrument maintenance activities. A subsequent trip in August will accomplish the same purpose. The instrumentation will run continuously into 2017 (via an NSF no-cost extension), A site visit by one project personnel is planned for August to perform maintenance and oversee winterization of the system. In addition, a VOC audit has been approved by the NSF to take place during August and will require one additional personnel to travel with compressed air standards for approximately 5 days at Summit. The science team will lead the effort to remediate a cylinder of nitric oxide (NO) remaining from a prior grant year. Fieldwork for 2018 will continue under award "NASA-ESD" in this database. The agreement with NASA allowed the measurements to continue uninterrupted through the end of September 2018. Beginning in October 2018 the support for the project will be provided by NSF 1822406 and will extend until the summer of 2023.

CPS will provide ANG support for passengers and cargo, compressed hydrogen and cylinder rental, user days at the KISS facility in Kangerlussuaq, user days and access to Summit Station infrastructure, rack space in TAWO, use of the existing TAWO tower, and science technical support through August 2017. The PI will arrange and pay for all other costs through the grant.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2012Greenland - Kangerlussuaq04 / 20 / 2012 08 / 22 / 20122
2012Greenland - Summit04 / 23 / 2012 08 / 20 / 20122
2013Greenland - Kangerlussuaq04 / 19 / 2013 08 / 21 / 20132
2013Greenland - Summit04 / 24 / 2013 08 / 18 / 20132
2014Greenland - Kangerlussuaq05 / 12 / 2014 08 / 22 / 20141
2014Greenland - Summit02 / 20 / 2014 08 / 21 / 20141
2015Greenland - Kangerlussuaq04 / 24 / 2015 08 / 22 / 20152
2015Greenland - Summit04 / 28 / 2015 08 / 20 / 20152
2016Greenland - Kangerlussuaq04 / 25 / 2016 08 / 19 / 20162
2016Greenland - Summit04 / 26 / 2016 08 / 17 / 20162
2017Greenland - Kangerlussuaq08 / 17 / 2017 08 / 28 / 20172
2017Greenland - Summit08 / 18 / 2017 08 / 26 / 20172

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