Black Carbon measurements during the 2013 flight to the North Pole

dr. Griša Močnik, Aerosol d.o.o.

Combustion of carbonaceous fuels for the production of energy results in the emission of particulate air pollutants, including considerable amounts of light absorbing carbonaceous aerosols. These exhibit very large optical absorption across the short-wave optical spectrum. Aerosolized black carbon (BC) is a unique primary tracer for combustion emissions, is inert and can transported over large distances (Bodhaine 1995, Weigum 2012), even though its lifetime in the atmosphere is relatively short and measured in days or weeks. BC affects the optical properties of the atmosphere when suspended, leading to local heating or cooling, depending on the processes involved (Menon 2002). It is recognized as the second most important cause of global warming with a contribution between 20% and 40% with a significant regional heterogeneity (Ramanathan 2008). The Arctic is especially vulnerable to the effects of BC because the warming continues after deposition of BC on the snow and ice due to the darkening of the otherwise reflective surface.
The Arctic has seen unprecedented melting this and in the past years (NSIDC 2012), potentially opening new shipping routes. Ship engines emit large amounts of BC and the deposition of BC has a positive feedback – as more ice melts, more ships will use the new lanes. Measurements of BC in the Arctic have been performed for a long time (Hansen 1989), but with very limited spatial coverage, and measurements of vertical profiles have been performed only recently (Ferrero 2012).
We have demonstrated during the GLWF2012 round-the-world campaign that a lightweight aircraft can provide valuable information on BC concentrations, their regional heterogeneity and vertical profiles with a minor payload and for a fraction of the cost associated with large airborne platforms (Močnik 2012). Throughout the flight to the North Pole in late Spring 2013 measurements will be carried out. We have modified the aircraft to include an aerosol inlet and will use a prototype Aethalometer to measure BC. Additional auxiliary measurements will be carried out onboard. We will attempt to measure the effect of the shipping on the BC concentrations in the Arctic during the flight, and analyze the spectral dependence of aerosol absorption to determine the sources (Sandradewi 2008). Plumes of pollution might be encountered and using back trajectories possible source regions will be identified.


  • Bodhaine BA (1995), Aerosol absorption measurements at Barrow, Mauna Loa and the south pole, J. Geophys. Res., 100(D5), 8967–8975.
  • Ferrero L, D. Cappelletti, B. Moroni, V. Vitale, R. Udisti, G. Sangiorgi, M.G. Perrone, M. Busetto, C. Lanconelli, M. Mazzola, A. Lupi, S. Becagli, R. Traversi, D. Frosini, M. Maturilli, R. Neuber, C. Ritter, J. Graeser, M. Fierz, G. Mocnik and E. Bolzacchini (2012), Vertical Profiles of Aerosol Properties and Black Carbon in the Arctic during spring and summer 2011: relationship with nucleation events and ship plumes, European Aerosol Conference, Granada, Spain, Sept 2012.
  • Hansen ADA, Conway TJ, Steele LP, Bodhaine BA, Thoning KW, Tans P, Novakov T (1989), Correlations among combustion effluent species at Barrow Alaska: aerosol black carbon, carbon dioxide, and methane. J. Atmos. Chem., 283-299.
  • Menon S, Hansen JE, Nazarenko L, and Luo Y (2002), Climate effects of black carbon aerosols in China and India. Science, 297, 2250-2253.
  • Močnik G, Drinovec L, Hansen ADA, Lenarčič M (2012), Airborne measurements of Black Carbon at remote locations using miniature high-performance Aethalometers, AWMA Visibilitiy and Air pollution, Whitefish, USA, Sept 2012.
  • National Snow and Ice Data Center (2012),, accessed 15 Nov 2012.
  • Ramanathan V, Carmichael G (2008), Global and regional climate changes due to black carbon. Nat. Geosci., 1, 221 – 227.
  • Sandradewi J, Prévôt ASH, Szidat S, Perron N, Alfarra MR, Lanz VA, Weingartner E, Baltensperger U (2008), Using Aerosol Light Absorption Measurements for the Quantitative Determination of Wood Burning and Traffic Emission Contributions to Particulate Matter, Environ. Sci. Technol. 42, 3316–3323.
  • Weigum NM, P. Stier, J. P. Schwarz, D. W. Fahey, J. R. Spackman (2012), Scales of variability of black carbon plumes over the Pacific Ocean, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L15804.





Contract conclusion with Delius Klasing publishers


Contract conclusion with Delius Klasing publishers

The large German publishing firm Delius Klasing showed interest in the book and therefore obtained the rights to publish the German language version... more...
Monograph Over the Blue Planet


Monograph Over the Blue Planet

We are hereby presenting you the website that is the continuation of the successful projects GreenLight WorldFlight (2012) and North Pole (2013)... more...


Contact  |  About the book  |  Overview of the book  |  About the author  |  Order  |  Black carbon measurement  |  Gallery  |  Airplane  |  News