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24 March, 2002

Imagine putting on layers of clothes, mittens, hats, thick bunny boots, and zooming around on a snowmachine in the remote Alasaka wilderness to take cold, snow measurements. Remember that cold 10 to 12 hours of working in the Arctic cold to take the measurements. Now picture the “blue men” on the Pentium Processor commercials doing their crazy art with their white suits dazzling. Let’s now combine the two pictures the “blue men” doing Science in the cold Arctic. That is precisely what is required to do chemical sampling of the snow.

Chemical sampling requires putting on layers of latex gloves, a white paper suit called a Tyvek suit and a mask for your face. Life/Science just got a little tougher in the Arctic. However, these chemical samples are very important and fascinating. They are breaking new science in the Arctic. These samples of snow will be sampled for chemicals. They are called Class I chemical samples. These samples of snow will be tested for mercury and other trace elements such as cadium, zinc, and vanadium. To test for traces of these elements the samples must be taken in clean mode. The “clean” mode means that the samples of snow cannot be contaminated. That means the people collecting the snow have to be very careful to not add any small amounts of the elements into the snow sample. The latex gloves are worn so nothing from the hands can enter the snow samples. The Tyvek suit is worn so nothing from the clothes/body can be transferred to the samples. The mouth/nose protector is worn so no SNOT or spit can get into the snow. That’s pretty important Who would want to measure snot in the snow?”

All of this care must be taken with the samples because the trace elements that we are measuring may only exist in minute parts of parts per million or parts per trillion. So, why all of the trouble in the cold for these measurements??????

The chemical sampling will be able to detect if there is any pollution in the Arctic. The atmospheric air currents carry the air and any pollution with it. The air currents that are responsible for the Arctic’s weather patterns brings air from Northern Asia, Northern Europe and parts of Russia. So we will be able to determine if the industrial, city activities here on Earth are being transported to the remote parts on Earth. The zinc would be a by-product produced in catalytic converters in automobiles. The vanadium is found in fuel in automobiles. The cadium and mercury will bioaccumulate in animals. This means that if a fish ingests these elements into their system and then a bird eats the fish, and something eats the bird and so on… Each time the energy is transferred the amount of elements is transferred. The concentrations are increasing greatly during each transfer. So, if the elements make it to humans, it can be in high amounts and very damaging!

So, what does all of this mean?? So what if there are high amounts of these elements in the snow in the Arctic. Well, if pollution exists here in the Arctic, then we need to understand the consequences of such an act and start planning accordingly. This could have Earth altering effects that are extremely important to humans and life on our planet.


Still in Council....moving soon.

Temperature: 30 F light snow/cloudy

Glen and me collecting the snow for chemical sampling. Details! Details!

Glen working in the snow pit to collect chemical samples. Notice the 500 ml bottle used. Math question later on this topic.

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