Seasonal variations in sulfate, nitrate and chloride in the greenland ice sheet: Relation to atmospheric concentrations

C. I. Davidson, J. R. Harrington, M. J. Stephenson, M. J. Small, F. P. Boscoe, R. E. Gandley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Samples from three snowpits near Dye 3 in South Greenland have been used to study seasonal variations in contaminant transport from the atmosphere to the Ice Sheet. The snowpits cover the years 1982-1987. The samples have been dated by comparing δ18O values with meteorological data from Dye 3. Airborne concentrations of SO2-4 over the Ice Sheet have been estimated for the dates corresponding to each snowpit sample by statistically analyzing data from several air monitoring stations throughout the Arctic, and computing average values from the appropriate stations. Seasonal variations in concentrations in air, concentrations in snow, and mass-basis scavenging ratios (concentration in snow divided by concentration in air) have been identified. Results indicate that concentrations of SO2-4in the air show a strong peak in late February, resulting from long-range transport of mid-latitude anthropogenic emissions, while those in the snow show a broad peak in January, February and March with smaller seasonal variation overall. The smaller variation in the snow is attributed in part to the effect of riming, which results in more efficient scavenging during warm weather when airborne concentrations are low. The importance of riming is also supported by the annual cycle in scavenging ratio which peaks in mid-summer coincident with maximum temperatures. In agreement with previous estimates, dry deposition appears to account for 10-30% of the total SO2-4 in the snow. Concentrations of NO-3 in the snow show a strong peak in summer; natural material from the stratosphere as well as anthropogenic emissions transported from the mid-latitudes may be responsible. Concentrations of Cl- in the snow are maximum in January, with relatively high concentrations during October through March and a smaller peak in July. The winter peak is believed to reflect long-range transport (LRT) of marine aerosol from north Atlantic storms, while the summer peak is attributed to seaspray from nearby coastal Greenland. Riming also may influence the seasonal variations in NO-3 and Cl- in the snow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2483-2493
Number of pages11
JournalAtmospheric Environment (1967)
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • Arctic
  • Greenland
  • Sulfate
  • chloride
  • dry deposition
  • ice
  • nitrate
  • precipitation scavenging
  • scavenging ratio
  • snow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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