We are on the Schweizerland glaciers, hiking along, deep in the rhythm of the hike. Most of our attention is focused on keeping our rope tight, so that a fall into a crevasse would be arrested instantly.
During breaks, while me colleagues eat and rest, I collect my first two snow samples. Twice, I fill a ziplock bag with surface snow from a square I have drawn next to me, awkwardly, with an ice axe. At the end of the day, I will melt the snow and filter it to capture the dust and black carbon it contains. Black carbon comes from the incomplete combustion of organic compounds, such as forest fires. Black carbon and dust travel along local and planetary wind highways to land on snow and ice and change their reflectivity and heat absorption rates – and, therefore, their melting rate. Scientists are keenly interested in understanding how…
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