Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Chemistry of reactive gases in the Arctic sea ice and atmosphere (Award# 1914781)

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\ARCSS
Program Manager: Dr. Gregory Anderson ( )
Discipline(s): | Cryosphere |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
The Arctic is warming on average twice as rapidly as the rest of the planet, resulting in substantial declines in sea ice coverage and other changes in the Arctic environment with implications for the global climate system. One major limitation in our understanding of these changes is a relative lack of environmental data in the high Arctic, particularly in winter. These challenges motivate the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC), the largest multinational scientific expedition ever undertaken in the Arctic. Operating from the German icebreaker R/V Polarstern as it drifts with sea ice over the period from Fall 2019-Fall 2020, scientists from more than 17 nations will collect a wide range of physical, chemical, and biological measurements of the surface ocean and sea ice, surface trace gas and energy flow, bulk meteorological parameters, vertical profiling, and aerosol and cloud characterization. This project is one element of MOSAiC and focuses on questions surrounding reactive halogen sources and their impacts on the atmospheric chemistry of ozone, mercury, reactive nitrogen and volatile organic compounds (VOCs); it will provide the most northerly, complete annual record of these gas compounds ever obtained. This study is being conducted by scientists from the US, UK, Netherlands, France, and Australia in collaboration with the broader MOSAiC collaboration. High time resolution observations (minutes to 1.5 hours) will be acquired for atmospheric ozone (by a UV absorption monitor; commercial TEI), gaseous elemental mercury (GEM; commercial Tekran), non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), oxygenated VOCs (oVOCs), halogenated VOCs (hVOCs) (all with a custom-made enrichment system and gas chromatography and spectroscopy), oxidized nitrogen species (differentiated into nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2)), and the sum of reactive gaseous nitrogen (NOy); custom-built chemiluminescence analyzer). Data will be thoroughly quality controlled, including by intercomparison with NOAA and the University of East Anglia, UK, calibration scales. Data will be shared with MOSAiC partners and submitted to the Arctic Data Center for free access and use by the research community.

Logistics Summary:
This project would fund US participation in the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) field campaign. MOSAiC is an international initiative developed under the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) umbrella that aims to improve numerical model representations of Arctic sea ice, weather, climate, and biogeochemical ecosystem processes through coupled system observations and modeling studies. The MOSAiC plan commits to an annual cycle of coordinated measurements from a drifting ice station centered on the German icebreaker RV Polarstern. The backbone of MOSAiC would be the year-round operation of the German Icebreaker RV Polarstern, drifting with the sea ice across the central Arctic during the years 2019 to 2020. During the set-up phase, the RV Polarstern would enter the Siberian sector of the Arctic in thin sea ice conditions in late summer. A distributed regional network of observational sites would be set up on the sea ice in an area of up to ~50 kilometers distance from RV Polarstern. The ship and the surrounding network would drift with the natural ice drift across the polar cap towards the Atlantic, while the sea ice thickens during winter. In order to complete the science objectives, a variety of activities would occur on and around the RV Polarstern while it is drifting in the sea ice. This includes building a working ice camp near the ship, extensive use of research aircraft (including ship-based helicopters, and UAVs), deployment of buoys and ice tethered profilers, regular sampling of ocean water and sea ice, standard CTD casts, use of ADCPs, among other field activities and observations. The primary goals of this project are to address questions pertaining to reactive gases sources, reactions, and the seasonal cycle in atmospheric concentrations. A particular emphasis will be the study of reactive halogen sources and their impacts on the atmospheric chemistry of ozone, mercury, reactive nitrogen and volatile organic compound gases. This project will support the analytical instrumentation for Polarstern, conduct data quality control, data finalization, comparison of real-time data with the UEA flask sampling, and archiving. Researchers will not deploy as part of this grant, so no fieldwork will be conducted.

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