Atmospheric Conditions and Arctic Climate


All PolarConnect Events Kevin and his team are available here: PolarConnect Event Archives!

This is the second trip for Kevin to Greenland! He accompanied Mike Bergin on an expedition to Summit in 2006. You can read about that expedition here.

What Are They Doing?

Aerosols are small, solid, particles like dust, smoke, and smog which are suspended in the air. Aerosols are generated by a variety of natural and man-made sources such as fossil fuel combustion, forest fires, and dust storms. Because aerosols have the ability to diffuse light coming from the sun, they may actually have a cooling impact on our Earth’s climate and the Greenland Ice Sheet.

In order to study the effect of aerosols on the arctic and the Greenland Ice Sheet, the research team took snow and air samples to measure the amount of aerosols. By looking at snow surface properties and chemistry the research team explored connections between aerosols and the snow surface albedo, or reflectivity.

The Greenland Ice Sheet plays a key role in regulating global climate. It also stores a large volume of fresh water. If it melts, it has the potential to cause sea level to rise. It is important to understand how air pollutants impact the climate of the Arctic, because changes in the Greenland Ice Sheet could affect places and people around the world. Better understanding the effects of aerosols would allow us to predict or adapt to some of these changes.

Where Are They?

The team lived and worked at Summit Station, located at the peak of the Greenland ice cap atop 3216 meters (10,551 ft) of ice. Summit is a scientific research station sponsored by the National Science Foundation that supports a diversity of scientific research, including year-round measurements of air-snow interactions that provide crucial knowledge for interpreting data from deep ice cores drilled both at Summit and elsewhere. During the summer months the camp is accessed via Kangerlussuaq, a small community located on the west coast of Greenland.


Ground Level View of the Edge of the Glacier
Our last day in Kangerlussuaq was exciting. We wanted to experience it all. Brandon got us dinner reservations for the Greenlandic Buffet at the RoKlubben Restaurant. We were interested to try all the unique Greenland delicacies and we weren’t disappointed. But, before I talk about food, let’s start back at the beginning of the day. We started the morning by driving 1/1 2 hours to the edge of the glacier. When you see it from this perspective, you really can appreciate why a glacier is called a slow moving river of snow and ice! Ground Level View of the Edge of the Glacier. Photo by...
Flags Over Summit Station
In today’s journal entry, I wanted to share some of my favorite photos that didn’t make it in my other journal entries. Did you know that scientists from other countries help each other out and share knowledge. Here is a picture of the flags of Greenland, the United States, and Denmark, Flags Over Summit Station Flags Flying Over Summit Station Summit Station is a camp run be the United States. The flags of Greenland and Denmark are also flying. Did you know that Greenland is a part of the country of Denmark. But, Denmark has allowed the people of Greenland to make their own rules,...
Brandon, Kevin and Hannah Leaving Summit Station
It was sad to leave all the friends we made at Summit Station but I am looking forward to heading home. Brandon Strellis, Kevin McMahon and Hannah James. Photo by Lance Roth. Hannah James Climbing Aboard the LC-130. Our first leg of our journey was to return to Kangerlussuaq. The plane was able to land at Summit on time and we had a smooth takeoff at Summit and a smooth landing on a real runway in Kangerlussuaq. We were excited to be back in Kangerlussauq. It was a nice change of pace to see different colors besides blue and white. The landscape of Kangerlussauq. Photo by Brandon...
Filling Up The Balloon With Helium
Once a week, the science technicians launch an ozone sensor attached to a helium balloon to measure the amount of ozone in the air. This sensor is called an ozonesonde. This week, our ozone sensor went up 20 miles (or 33 kilometers) into the atmosphere before it popped. All along the way, it was taking important measurements of ozone. Filling the Balloon with Helium is Only the First Step. Do you know what ozone is? It is a natural gas that is found in our atmosphere. It can be good or bad, depending on where it is found. Ozone that is near the ground is not good for people because...
PolarCONNECT from Summit Station, Greenland
Wow, I am worn out. We did a lot of packing today. Much of the time we were outside digging up instruments out of the snow or putting our snow samples into ice core boxes to keep them very cold. The rest of the time we were inside with the heater cranked up so that we could remove all the snow and ice from the inside of the crates for the science instruments. We then hauled big boxes to the main camp on our banana sleds so that they would be ready for when we leave. The weather was pretty brutal. We had snow all day and 17 mile per hour winds. It was so windy that a scheduled flight was...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

27 June 2011 to 25 July 2011
Location: Summit, Greenland

Meet the Team

Kevin McMahon's picture
Renfroe Middle School

Kevin McMahon is a 6th grade earth science teacher at Renfroe Middle School in Decatur, Georgia. One of his main goals as a teacher is to inspire his students to become life-long learners. He hopes that the students leave sixth grade realizing that there is so much more to learn and understand than what is written in a science textbook. Kevin is very excited to bring this scientific research directly back to his classroom and community.

Michael Bergin's picture
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA
United States

Mike Bergin is a professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. His research interests include the processes that emit, transform and deposit particulate matter. He has travelled all over the world for his research, including Greenland, China, France, and Nepal.

Brandon Strellis's picture
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA
United States

I grew up in a house, unlike my minimalist advisor, Mike, who was raised by a pack of feral wolves and only learned basic arithmetic as a teenager, but I do enjoy the outdoors. When I'm not saving the world one aerosol at a time, I enjoy baking and walking from one place to another.