Rare gathering of polar firn experts convenes at Dartmouth

March 5, 2008

CONTACT: Catharine Lamm
603/646-3943

A rare opportunity for the world's top polar firn experts to gather together will occur during the Workshop on the Microstructure and Properties of Firn on March 10th and 11th at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth. "To my knowledge, this is the first time such a group has been assembled," said Ian Baker, Professor of Engineering, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Thayer School, and coordinator of the event. "It will include almost everyone who has some expertise in this area—from microscopic characterization to field studies to remote sensing with applications ranging from climate change to understanding avalanche formation."

East Antarctica Firn is old, porous snow which, when taken from depths of many tens of meters, provides an important natural archive of atmospheric composition. Because instrumental records of atmospheric chemistry do not exist very far into the past, access to the large quantities of preindustrial air captured within firn allows us to explore one of the most pressing questions of our time: How has human activity impacted the atmospheric composition of our planet?

Pioneered by Jakob Schwander and collaborators in the late 1980s, the science of using firn air to investigate past atmospheric composition is relatively young. There are still unknowns that, if understood, may facilitate a more complete interpretation of the firn air profiles. For example, the structure of firn, how this structure subsequently changes, and how changes in the structure affect both the physical and chemical behaviors of firn are not well understood.

Sponsored by Thayer School of Engineering and the Army Research Office, this workshop will bring together both scientists and engineers who are recognized experts on firn along with newcomers to the field to discuss issues associated with understanding firn and its behavior. The workshop will consist of invited talks, in-depth discussion, and contributed posters.

Thayer School will broadcast a live stream of the oral presentations, and recordings will be archived for later viewing.

See the workshop website or contact Professor Ian Baker for more information.