UW News

Becky Alexander

February 3, 2023

Ice cores show even dormant volcanoes leak abundant sulfur into the atmosphere

barren landscape with patches of snow and white smoky plumes

Non-erupting volcanoes leak a surprisingly high amount of sulfur-containing gases. A Greenland ice core shows that volcanoes quietly release at least three times as much sulfur into the Arctic atmosphere than estimated by current climate models. Aerosols are the most uncertain aspect of current climate models, so better estimates could improve the accuracy of long-term projections.

May 5, 2021

Ice core data show why, despite lower sulfur emissions in U.S. and Western Europe, air pollution is dropping more slowly

graphic of Earth with chemical pathways

Ice core data from Greenland shows why air pollution is dropping more slowly than sulfur emissions reductions. As cloud droplets become less acidic, the chemical reaction that turns sulfur dioxide into sulfate aerosol gets more efficient. The new results can improve the models that project air quality and climate change.

May 17, 2017

Earth’s atmosphere more chemically reactive in cold climates

researcher in lab wearing parka and holding tube of ice

A study of a Greenland ice core shows that during large climate swings, chemically reactive oxidants shift in a different direction than expected, which means we need to rethink what controls these molecules in our air.

April 11, 2014

Greenland ice cores show industrial record of acid rain, success of U.S. Clean Air Act

person with ice core

Detailed ice core measurements show smog-related ratios leveling off in 1970, and suggests these deposits are sensitive to the same chemicals that cause acid rain.