Contribution at upcoming AGU Fall Meeting

I will be presenting a paper at the upcoming AGU Fall Meeting as part of the OASIS session A08: Ocean-Atmosphere-Sea Ice-Snow (OASIS) Interactions in Polar Regions: Results From Recent Field Campaigns:

Gregor Kos, Adechina Nafissa, Dwayne Lutchman, Roya Mortazavi, Parisa Ariya
(Semi)volatile Organic Compounds and Microbiological Entities in Snow during OASIS Barrow 2009

Abstract ID 723572
I will not be able to present myself, but one of the co-authors will be there to present the poster.

Out on the ice!

Greg on the ice

I went out on the ice yesterday with a group of researchers from Canada to sample frost flowers and snow at the ice edge. Unfortunately, the guide advised against doing it since there was ice coming in and the lead was closing fast. So, no samples!

OASIS Canada

We had to stay on site and with the generator running and snow machines passing frequently, there was no point sampling snow for VOC analysis. Briefly – a nice trip out on the ice, but useless scientifically! I returned back home in time for some more snow and air sampling before sunset.

MOUDI out … and in again


Sampling started on time – since my gear had arrived as planned. I have settled into a sampling routine with initially 3 snow samples a day (morning/noon/late afternoon). I have since added a fourth sample in the early morning before sunrise. The dedicated snow sampling site is just behind the tent on the picture. I also take air samples once a day at the snow site and will collect aerosol samples near the prefab buildings with the MOUDI. Additionally I take snow samples for Hg and microbiological analyses (i.e. sterile).

The idea is to monitor VOC concentrations in air and surface snow as it changes over the day. With the additional dark sample I would like to follow the concentrations with the diurnal cycle. As a consequence I would like to investigate, how species move between snow and air and are subjected to photochemistry and microbiological degradation.


I put out the MOUDI yesterday for a first run, but had to take it in in the late afternoon, because of the blowing snow – which started clogging the sampling vent. You can see parts of it on the left – now parked in the lab.

On a related note – I helped launching a balloon yesterday. Find me on the pictures in the OASIS blog. Hint: Second row of pictures, right photo – I am the guy on the far right ūüėČ

Estimation of VOC concentration in air from snow data

I currently work on ways to estimate concentrations of selected VOCs in air from VOC concentrations obtained in snow. This would not only give me an idea of the impact of VOC stored in snow on their occurrence in air (for data with no air samples analysed) , but would also let me compare my air and snow results, where I have both available and how the data correlate with numerical calculations.

After looking around a bit in the literature I have done some calculations using¬†Lei & Wania’s approach (2004)¬†with sorption coefficients for selected species compiled by¬†Roth et al. (2004). The parameter that I miss is the specific snow surface area (SSA), which I have not measured for the data set I currently work on. However,¬†Legagneux et al. (2002)√ā¬†published an extensive list of SSA for different types of snow, which they describe using images and a verbal description.

Since I have the latter information available from my snow data (including checks with a light microscope on site) I am able to estimate the SSA for my snow samples. Uncertainty data is available as well. Now that the calculations are set-up, what I need to do is optimise the estimated parameter and compare calculated results with my own data and published studies.

What’s new on the research front?

Well – there are quite a few things going on. My teaching load is considerably lighter this semester, so I can tie up a few loose ends on my research.

  • √ā¬†My draft about the snow work in Quebec is coming along that there is only a tiny section missing; the manuscript describes the determination of VOC concentrations in snow and from the data I would like to calculate sorption coefficients to estimate deposition from the atmosphere.
  • I co-author a proposal on bio-aerosols in snow that should get done next week, since the deadline is looming
  • I have fine-tuned my dossier apart from updates such as new publications, since I get a better and better idea, what I would like to do in the future

I might have to put things on the back-burner, when the first assignment comes in next week, but student numbers are down, since I have one fewer course to teach, so I am hopeful to make some considerable progress until the summer.

A visit to the Atmospheric Chemistry Research Group at the Vienna University of Technology

Today’s visit was extremely interesting – especially the microbiology aspect of it. It is not my central field of work, but I have done quite a bit of work concerning isolation and identification of bacteria and fungi from snow. Their (potential) ability to metabolise the VOC that I am trying to determine presents an interesting pathway for their fate in the environment. Snow with its huge surface and favourable properties (especially during the time of snow melt) could provide an suitable matrix for the breakdown of VOC by microbial species.

The group in Vienna√ā¬† works mostly on the role of fungi in the snow pack in conjunction with the determination of organic matter, mostly as a sum parameter – not the speciation work that I do. It was most interesting to hear about the methodolgy that they use and how they interpret their results.