Who got the cash?

February 9, 2007

An atmospheric chemist at York University has won a £70,000 research grant to study a process in the Arctic that could combat global warming.

Lucy Carpenter (pictured), a senior lecturer, won the Philip Leverhulme Prize to study frost flowers in Hudson Bay, Canada. Frost flowers are delicate crystals that form on new sea ice. They are believed to emit bromine oxide, which can help to reduce levels of the greenhouse gas ozone.

Dr Carpenter thought that the team would be the first to observe the process in the field and test the hypothesis. "The environment is changing very rapidly in the Arctic, but the feedback in relation to atmospheric composition is not well understood," she said. The team, which includes scientists from the UK, Germany and Canada, will dig holes in the sea ice to allow frost flowers to form and then place a chamber over the top to collect the gases.

Dr Carpenter said the project would be based at a Canadian research station in Hudson Bay for two months from February 2008, with the team working in a portable laboratory. "It's a big field experiment that is going to be very difficult to do," she said.

"We have to go out there in February and March because of the combination of cold temperatures and sunlight. We are hoping for temperatures of minus 20 to 30 degrees Celsius - there are huge floats of frost flowers in those conditions."

Dr Carpenter also works in the atmospheric observation station in Cape Verde in the tropics, where York co-ordinates an international team of academics. The team looks at how the ocean and the chemistry of the atmosphere affect one another."The shifts in responses to climate change are especially strong in those two regions," Dr Carpenter said.

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