A source of nitrous acid (HONO) in Antarctic snow - understanding air quality in snow covered regions (FREY_UBAS17EE)

University of East Anglia - School of Environmental Sciences

Start Date:  October 2017

No. of positions available: 1

Supervisor: Dr Markus M Frey

Project description:  
Background & Objective
Snowpacks emit many chemical species to the overlying atmosphere, which affect air quality, chemistry and even climate. One example is the nitrogen oxides NO and NO2, which alter concentrations of ozone (O3), a pollutant and greenhouse gas, and the hydroxyl radical (OH), which is responsible for the removal of many other atmospheric pollutants. Changes in O3 can influence the regional energy balance and climate, whereas OH controls levels of the greenhouse gas methane – as up to 40% of the Earth’s land surface is covered seasonally by snow or ice, these processes can have a substantial impact.  Nitrous acid gas (HONO) is a particularly reactive nitrogen species, related to NO and NO2, which has been observed previously at surprisingly high levels in air above snow, suggesting a large snowpack source may be present. The aim of this project is to quantify the HONO snow source in coastal Antarctica in summer.                                                                                          

The project will use a HONO monitor to measure atmospheric HONO production from snow in lab experiments using natural snow samples and in the field, with a possible stay at Halley in coastal Antarctica. The data will be used together with a numerical air-snow model to assess the importance of HONO for atmospheric composition above snow, and to improve global chemistry climate models. The project will be based at BAS/Cambridge, with the possibility of extended stay at the UEA Air-Sea Ice camber.

The student will be part of a dynamic research team at the British Antarctic Survey (see https://www.bas.ac.uk/team/science-teams/climate), which is working on a wide range of environmental topics in the polar regions. Full training in the specific instrumental techniques, modelling tools and fieldwork will be provided. The candidate will attend an atmospheric sciences summer school, and will be supported in preparing results for publication in peer-reviewed journals and at national / international conferences.

Person specification:  Degree in chemistry, physics or related Earth/Environmental Science, with experience in experimental work and good numerical skills (e.g. basic knowledge of a programming language).

Funding notes: This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with twenty other research partners.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 14/15 February 2017.

Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award. In 2016/17, the stipend was £14,296.

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