Blowing Snow Contributes to Arctic Warming


When it comes to global warming trends, the Arctic is a troubling outlier.

When it comes to global warming trends, the Arctic is a troubling outlier. The Arctic warms nearly four times faster than the global average, and aerosols play an important role in that warming. Scientists have long known that pollutants from other regions can accumulate in the Arctic atmosphere where they alter atmospheric chemistry, absorb sunlight and affect local weather patterns, leading to localized warming that melts ice and snow. Sea salt particles dominate aerosol mass concentration, but their production mechanisms and impact on Arctic climate have remained unclear.

Atmospheric scientists led by Jian Wang, director of the Center for Aerosol Science and Engineering and a professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, investigated the production and impact of sea salt aerosols on Arctic warming. Their results, published Sept. 4 in Nature Geoscience, revealed abundant fine sea salt aerosol production from blowing snow in the central Arctic, increasing particle concentration and cloud formation.

“Over the past few decades, scientists have identified ‘Arctic haze’ as the primary source of aerosols in the Arctic during winter and spring. This haze results from the long-range transport of pollutants,” said Xianda Gong, first author on the study and a former postdoctoral researcher in Wang’s lab. “However, our study reveals that local blowing snow, which produces sea salt particles, contributes a more substantial fraction to the total aerosol population in the central Arctic.”

Read more at: Washington University in St. Louis

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