Angel Adames-Corraliza - 2008

Analyzing the presence of black carbon on Arctic snow

Angel hikingAngel Adames Corraliza's main goal for summer 2008 was to find an internship position that would expand his geographical horizons, give him the opportunity to become acquainted with another university, and put everything he has learned as an undergraduate into a whole new perspective. After finishing his sophomore year as a Theoretical Physics student at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus, Angel received an invitation from the University of Washington to participate in the NCAS/JISAO Summer Internship Program. Soon he was flying to Seattle where he met the staff at JISAO and his advisor Dr. Sarah Doherty, with whom he worked during the summer.

The summer research project focused on black carbon (more commonly called "soot"), a substance that can be found as a result of forest fires, industrial pollution and other sources such as diesel combustion. This aerosol can be incorporated into snowfall and is deposited with the snow, producing a significant change in the albedo (reflectivity) of the snow if a sufficient amount of soot is present. The soot darkens the snow, absorbing sunlight. By darkening the earth's surface, this causes climate warming and can accelerate the melt rate of the snow. It was Angel's job to find out how much black carbon is present in snow from different Arctic regions. Angel analyzed filter samples from places such as Svalbard, Norway and Russia using a spectrophotometer. Data from the photometer was processed using Matlab programs where the end result was the amount of black carbon per gram of snow in the location where the sample was taken.

Angel's job was just a small part of the large-scale project to understand the ongoing change in Arctic climate, in which many people are involved. Dr. Steve Warren and Dr. Tom Grenfell, both from the University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences Department, are two of the scientists working on the project and with whom Angel was able to meet and collaborate. Warren and Grenfell have been working on large projects such as this for a long time and collected most of the samples from the Arctic regions. Results from the photometer scans give a wide range of soot concentrations, sometimes even from the same area. Angel's results will be used to analyze whether soot Angel laying in the snowdeposition on snow is making a significant contribution to warming in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Angel believes the results that are coming out are interesting and hopefully will receive deserved attention when the research is finally published. The results have certainly caught Angel's interest and he would like to know more of the significance of them as they keep unfolding.

Working was not the only thing Angel did during his summer in Seattle. Angel visited different places including Mt Rainier and Mt Saint Helens. It was definitely a learning experience for Angel. He was able to see new aspects of the natural world that are very different from the tropical climate of Puerto Rico. (Photo shows Angel's first encounter with snow on Mt Rainer, Washington.) Angel developed a deeper appreciation for the amazing climate variations across the planet and fueled his love for the atmospheric sciences and his desire to study the Earth's atmosphere even further. Angel believes there is something truly mystifying about things such as packs of snow and tropical cyclones -- even more so once you know more about the somewhat delicate dynamics of our atmosphere.

Angel is grateful to the staff at JISAO, Sarah and every other person that helped him during his internship. The research internship fueled Angel's interests and motivation and provided new knowledge which he plans to use for future research experiences to further his understanding of the mechanisms of our planet.