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Icy air measurements

Publication date: 21 May 2015
Modificationdate: 20 October 2016
Bernice Notenboom’s Arctic March expedition team has reached the summit of Greenland. She has conquered the 3500-metre high summit on Greenland with functioning air measuring equipment. And just in time, because they are now stuck in the Watkins Mountains due to bad weather. The storm, which prevents the Twin Otter plane from landing on the polar cap to retrieve the team, will last until Friday at least.

The Arctic March has travelled to Greenland to execute air quality measurements. Soot and particulate matter emitted in the Western world (as a result of industry, traffic, etc.) can be transported through the air as far as a thousand kilometres. Once this material reaches the vulnerable polar region, it reinforces the effects of climate change. Many of these effects are now measured using climate models.  Thanks to her experience in expeditions, Bernice can carry out local measurements,  and the data collected will be analysed upon her return from Greenland, ensuring a unique set of data becomes available. During her expedition, Bernice came across snow with visible black dust.

She says the following about her work as a researcher: ‘Exploration is like extreme science, you never know what you are going to find out and how much you will have to suffer to get the goods. You can only do an Ispex reading with your gloves off, lifting your arm above your head which sends your blood to your core and instantly freezes your fingers, or a calitoo reading, which is possible only if you stare in the bright arctic sun, patiently waiting for the dots to line up. Not to mention the wind, cold, snow, or danger of falling in crevasses, or getting hit by avalanches or icefall. Still, science in these extreme parts of the world is well worth the effort in order to retrieve data you would otherwise never retrieve and we are thankful to help out with this important work.’

In 2014 Bernice Notenboom undertook an Arctic March expedition from the North Pole to Canada to promote and focus attention on the fragile balance in the Arctic. But she was in for a surprise, because against all expectations and long-term averages, she mainly experienced storms and headwind. At a certain point the ice was melting so rapidly that she and her team were evacuated. The expedition prompted her to investigate the causes of these changes and the pressure that is exerted on the polar region. This resulted in the second part of the Arctic March.

Bernice reached summit Greenland

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