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> May 28, 2006 - Let the Measurements Begin!, Is that a UFO on the ice sheet?
post May 29 2006, 09:55 PM
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High Temperature: -14 degrees Celsius
Low Temperature: -30 degrees Celsius

Our main job at Summit this summer is to measure the carbon compounds in the air and in the snow. As mentioned in earlier teacher journals, these particles can be emitted from factories and cars, and can also be emitted from natural sources, such as forest fires.


We spent the first week here at Summit, Greenland setting up the instruments to monitor what is in the air. In 6th grade, we used triple-beam balances, graduated cylinders, and meter sticks for measuring. These instruments won’t help us measure particles in the air because the particles are so small. Instead, we are using the following high-tech instruments at our satellite camp:

LASAIR – The LASAIR measures the total amount of pollution particles in the air and the size of these particles. It uses a laser beam to make its measurements and makes its measurements one particle at a time.

PSAP (or particle soot/absorption photometer)
– The PSAP measures how black the air particles are. If this machine is measuring a lot of black particles, then the snow temperature might be effected.

IPB Image
Gayle Hagler installing PSAP and LASAIR machines. Both the LASAIR and the PSAP stay inside a warm building we call the “Bally" building.

High Vol Sampler (or “High Vol”)-
The High Vol is one of our air vacuum cleaners. Not only does it sound just like a vacuum cleaner, but it also traps in particles in a filter, just like a vacuum cleaner traps in the dirt and dust it sucks up. These filters will be taken back to the United States to be analyzed to see what type and how many particles are in the filter. This instrument got its name because it sucks in a high volume of air each minute. It sucks in 900 liters of air each minute.

IPB Image
Gayle Hagler is hiding behind the High Vol. Doesn't it look like a UFO?

Low Vol Sampler (or “Low Vol”) - This machine is our other air vacuum cleaner. It is similar to the High Vol but only sucks in 22 liters of air a minute. As you may have guessed, it got its name because it sucks in a low volume of air each minute. The Low Vol measures how much black carbon and organic carbon are in the air.

IPB Image
Mr. McMahon is adjusting the Low Vol.

Wind Vane and Anemometer.
These devices monitor wind direction and speed. When the wind is coming from the camp, the High Vol and the Low Vol shut down automatically so the air particles from our camp won’t mess up our measurements. Gayle did a great job writing a computer program to make the shut down happen automatically.

IPB Image
Mike Bergin attaching the wind vane and anemometer to the top of the Bally building

So far, our instruments have revealed that the amount of carbon particles in the air decreases when a fog rolls in. We think the fog is cleaning the air of these types of particles and depositing them in the snow. We will continue monitoring these particles to see if this pattern continues.


Now that these items are up and running, we begin to focus our attention on measuring the organic carbon particles that are in the snow. We will begin our snow measurements tomorrow. I can’t wait.

ARCTIC FACT OF THE DAY: The number of penguins in Greenland is zero. Wild penguins are only found south of the equator.
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