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12-12-2001

Clarkson Professor's Research Tracks Down Sources Of Pollution In The Arctic

Scientists have been alarmed by “Arctic haze,” the concentration of aerosol pollutants in the Arctic region, since it was first detected in 1957. Aerosol pollutants (in particular, black carbon particles with a high capacity for absorbing light) have the potential to significantly affect the environment and modify the Arctic climate.

Now Clarkson Chemical Engineering Professor Philip K. Hopke and his co-researchers have identified the likely pollution sources that have created the Arctic haze. The results of their research have been published in the November issue of Environmental Science & Technology, a journal of the American Chemical Association. The findings are likely to affect future policies and initiatives to improve air quality in that region.

Using data gathered at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) monitoring station in Barrow, Alaska, Hopke and his team looked at several characteristics of the airborne particles, including the ability of the particles to scatter light, the total count of particles, and the amount of light absorbing particles.

“We found black carbon and light scattering have the highest values in winter, while the particle count is highest in March and August. The seasonal variation suggested two different types of sources,” said Hopke. “Using information about the wind patterns, we found that the black carbon and light scattering are mainly caused by human activities, primarily in central Russia. The particle counts, however, are affected more by natural sources of particles in the oceans.”

Philip K. Hopke is the Robert A. Plane Professor of Chemical Engineering and an internationally renowned expert on airborne pollution.  His expertise is in the areas of atmospheric chemistry and aerosol physics. He is currently chair of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and has served on a number of national research committees, including the congressionally mandated Committee on Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter and the Committee on Air Quality Management.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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