British chemists are meeting to discuss findings from the longest-running and most detailed yet survey of atmospheric chemistry in Antarctica.

British chemists will meet next month to discuss preliminary findings from the longest-running and most detailed survey yet of atmospheric chemistry in Antarctica. 

The researchers, led by Anna Jones, an atmospheric chemist with the British Antarctic Survey, studied the chemistry of the clean Antarctic atmosphere and looked at how that chemistry interacts with snow.   

’There’s this idea that with deep ice cores, a lot of which are drilled in Antarctica, you can reconstruct what the climate was doing, what the atmosphere was doing and what the chemistry of the atmosphere was doing,’ Jones told Chemistry World. ’But we don’t even know what the atmosphere is like today, so you can’t possibly look at an ice-core record and accurately say, this is what the atmosphere’s doing and this is what the ice-core record means.’ 

No data has been released since the project - chemistry of the Antarctic boundary layer and the interface with snow (Chablis) - was launched. Facilities were set up on Halley, the UK’s most isolated research station that floats on an ice shelf on the mainland of Antarctica, in November 2003.     



The instruments needed to look at the atmosphere are extremely complicated and expensive, says Jones, so collaboration is essential.   Groups from the Universities of East Anglia, York, Leeds and Bristol, joined with groups from Imperial College London and the British Antarctic Survey. 

Nothing has been published, says Jones, because what sets this apart is that it was a year-round campaign rather than a series of seasonal investigations. The last researchers returned to the UK in April 2005, following the Antarctic summer - when temperatures climb to just below freezing. 

’We’re working to a fairly tight timetable and trying to get a special session in the European Geophysical Union Meeting (EGU) next Spring,’ said Jones. ’And a special issue in a journal like Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP) as well, so we’re keen to get the data published.’ Bea Perks