, Volume 95, Issue 1, pp 167–183 | Cite as

Release and uptake of volatile inorganic and organic gases through the snowpack at Niwot Ridge, Colorado

  • Detlev HelmigEmail author
  • Eric Apel
  • Donald Blake
  • Laurens Ganzeveld
  • Barry L. Lefer
  • Simone Meinardi
  • Aaron L. Swanson


Whole air drawn from four heights within the high elevation (3,340 m asl), deep, winter snowpack at Niwot Ridge, Colorado, were sampled into stainless steel canisters, and subsequently analyzed by gas chromatography for 51 volatile inorganic and organic gases. Two adjacent plots with similar snow cover were sampled, one over bare soil and a second one from within a snow-filled chamber where Tedlar/Teflon-film covered the ground and isolated it from the soil. This comparison allowed for studying effects from processes in the snowpack itself versus soil influences on the gas concentrations and fluxes within and through the snowpack. Samples were also collected from ambient air above the snow surface for comparison with the snowpack air. Analyzed gas species were found to exhibit three different kinds of behavior: (1) One group of gases, i.e., carbon dioxide (CO2), chloroform (CHCl3), dimethylsulfide (CH3)2S, carbondisulfide (CS2), and dichlorobromomethane (CHBrCl2), displayed higher concentrations inside the snow, indicating a formation of these species and release into the atmosphere. (2) A second group of compounds, including carbon monoxide (CO), carbonyl sulfide (COS), the hydrocarbons methane, ethane, ethyne, benzene, and the halogenated compounds methylchloride (CH3Cl), methylbromide (CH3Br), dibromomethane (CH2Br2), bromoform (CHBr3), tetrachloromethane (CCl4), CFC-11, CFC-12, HCFC-22, CFC-113, 1,2-dichloroethane, methylchloroform, HCFC-141b, and HCFC-142b, were found at lower concentrations in the snow, indicating that the snow and/or soil constitute a sink for these gases. (3) For 21 other gases absolute concentrations, respectively concentration gradients, were too low to unequivocally identify their uptake or release behavior. For gases listed in the first two groups, concentration gradients were incorporated into a snowpack gas diffusion model to derive preliminary estimates of fluxes at the snow-atmosphere interface. The snowpack gradient flux technique was found to offer a highly sensitive method for the study of these surface gas exchanges. Microbial activities below this deep, winter snowpack appear to be the driving mechanism behind these gas sources and sinks. Flux results were applied to a simple box model to assess the potential contribution of the snowpack uptake rates to atmospheric lifetimes of these species.


Snow Soil Winter Fluxes Volatile inorganic and organic gases CFC HCFC Hydrocarbons 



Research at Niwot Ridge is funded by the Long-Term Ecological Research grant from the National Science Foundation (award # NSF DEB-9211776). We thank S. Harrold, and B. Seok for help with the data analyses, and other participants in the spring 2005 Niwot Ridge snow study for their assistance in the field work. This work was also supported by NSF grant OPP-0240976. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Detlev Helmig
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eric Apel
    • 2
  • Donald Blake
    • 3
  • Laurens Ganzeveld
    • 4
  • Barry L. Lefer
    • 5
  • Simone Meinardi
    • 3
  • Aaron L. Swanson
    • 3
    • 6
  1. 1.Institute of Arctic and Alpine ResearchUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.National Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Department of Earth System ScienceUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA
  4. 4.Department of Environmental SciencesWageningen University and Research CenterWageningenThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Earth and Atmospheric Sciences DepartmentUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  6. 6.Department of ChemistryNorthrop Grumman Space TechnologyRedondo BeachUSA

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