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Bonnie Light

Principal Physicist

Affiliate Associate Professor, Atmospheric Sciences





Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


Extreme Summer Melt: Assessing the Habitability and Physical Structure of Rotting First-year Arctic Sea Ice

Sea ice cover in the Arctic during summer is shrinking and thinning. The melt season is lengthening and the prevalence of "rotten" sea ice is increasing.

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30 Jul 2015

A multidisciplinary team of researchers is making a series of three monthly (May, June, and July) expeditions to Barrow, AK. They are measuring the summertime melt processes that transform the physical properties of sea ice, which in turn transform the biological and chemical properties of the ice habitat.

Investigating Arctic Ice Melt

"Investigating Arctic Ice Melt" is an interactive exhibit at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, WA. Bonnie Light leads a tour through some of the installations and explains a few of the many pieces to the puzzle: What is causing the decreasing ice up north?

19 Mar 2014

Focus on Arctic Sea Ice: Current and Future States of a Diminished Sea Ice Cover

APL-UW polar scientists are featured in the March edition of the UW TV news magazine UW|360, where they discuss their research on the current and future states of a diminished sea ice cover in the Arctic.

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7 Mar 2012

The dramatic melting of Arctic sea ice over the past several summers has generated great interest and concern in the scientific community and among the public. Here, APL-UW polar scientists present their research on the current state of Arctic sea ice. A long-term, downward trend in sea ice volume is clear.

They also describe how the many observations they gather are used to improve computer simulations of global climate that, in turn, help us to asses the impacts of a future state of diminished sea ice cover in the Arctic.

This movie presentation was first seen on the March 2012 edition of UW|360, the monthly University of Washington Television news magazine.


2000-present and while at APL-UW

The spectral albedo of sea ice and salt crusts on the tropical ocean of Snowball Earth: 1. Laboratory measurements

Light, B., R. Carns, and S.G. Warren, "The spectral albedo of sea ice and salt crusts on the tropical ocean of Snowball Earth: 1. Laboratory measurements," J. Geophys. Res., 121, 4966-4979, doi:10.1002/2016JC011803, 2016.

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16 Jun 2016

The ice-albedo feedback mechanism likely contributed to global glaciation during the Snowball Earth events of the Neoproterozoic era (1 Ga to 544 Ma). This feedback results from the albedo contrast between sea ice and open ocean. Little is known about the optical properties of some of the possible surface types that may have been present, including sea ice that is both snow-free and cold enough for salts to precipitate within brine inclusions. A proxy surface for such ice was grown in a freezer laboratory using the single salt NaCl and kept below the eutectic temperature (–21.2°C) of the NaCl – H2O binary system. The resulting ice cover was composed of ice and precipitated hydrohalite crystals (NaCl ⋅ 2H2O). As the cold ice sublimated, a thin lag-deposit of salt formed on the surface. To hasten its growth in the laboratory, the deposit was augmented by addition of a salt-enriched surface crust. Measurements of the spectral albedo of this surface were carried out over 90 days as the hydrohalite crust thickened due to sublimation of ice, and subsequently over several hours as the crust warmed and dissolved, finally resulting in a surface with puddled liquid brine. The all-wave solar albedo of the subeutectic crust is 0.93 (in contrast to 0.83 for fresh snow and 0.67 for melting bare sea ice). Incorporation of these processes into a climate model of Snowball Earth will result in a positive salt-albedo feedback operating between –21°C and –36°C.

The spectral albedo of sea ice and salt crusts on the tropical ocean of Snowball Earth: 2. Optical modeling

Carns, R.C., B. Light, and S.G. Warren, "The spectral albedo of sea ice and salt crusts on the tropical ocean of Snowball Earth: 2. Optical modeling," J. Geophys. Res., 121, 5217-5230, doi:10.1002/2016JC011804, 2016.

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16 Jun 2016

During the Snowball Earth events of the Neoproterozoic, tropical regions of the ocean could have developed a precipitated salt lag deposit left behind by sublimating sea ice. The major salt would have been hydrohalite, NaCl⋅2H2O. The crystals in such a deposit can be small and highly scattering, resulting in an allwave albedo similar to that of snow. The snow-free sea ice from which such a crust could develop has a lower albedo, around 0.5, so the development of a crust would substantially increase the albedo of tropical regions on Snowball Earth. Hydrohalite crystals are much less absorptive than ice in the near-infrared part of the solar spectrum, so their presence at the surface would increase the overall albedo as well as altering its spectral distribution.

In this paper, we use laboratory measurements of the spectral albedo of a hydrohalite lag deposit, in combination with a radiative transfer model, to infer the inherent optical properties of hydrohalite as functions of wavelength. Using this result, we model mixtures of hydrohalite and ice representing both artificially created surfaces in the laboratory and surfaces relevant to Snowball Earth. The model is tested against sequences of laboratory measurements taken during the formation and the dissolution of a lag deposit of hydrohalite. We present a parameterization for the broadband albedo of cold, sublimating sea ice as it forms and evolves a hydrohalite crust, for use in climate models of Snowball Earth.

The magnitude of the snow-sourced reactive nitrogen flux to the boundary layer in the Uintah Basin, Utah, USA

Zatko, M., and 14 others, including B. Light, "The magnitude of the snow-sourced reactive nitrogen flux to the boundary layer in the Uintah Basin, Utah, USA," Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 13837-13851, doi:10.5194/acp-2016-320, 2016.

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17 May 2016

Reactive nitrogen (Nr = NO, NO2, HONO) and volatile organic carbon emissions from oil and gas extraction activities play a major role in wintertime ground-level ozone exceedance events of up to 140 ppb in the Uintah Basin in eastern Utah. Such events occur only when the ground is snow covered, due to the impacts of snow on the stability and depth of the boundary layer and ultraviolet actinic flux at the surface. Recycling of reactive nitrogen from the photolysis of snow nitrate has been observed in polar and mid-latitude snow, but snow-sourced reactive nitrogen fluxes in mid-latitude regions have not yet been quantified in the field. Here we present vertical profiles of snow nitrate concentration and nitrogen isotopes (δ15N) collected during the Uintah Basin Winter Ozone Study 2014 (UBWOS 2014), along with observations of insoluble light-absorbing impurities, radiation equivalent mean ice grain radii, and snow density that determine snow optical properties. We use the snow optical properties and nitrate concentrations to calculate ultraviolet actinic flux in snow and the production of Nr from the photolysis of snow nitrate. The observed δ15N(NO3−) is used to constrain modeled fractional loss of snow nitrate in a snow chemistry column model, and thus the source of snow-sourced Nr to the overlying boundary layer. Snow-surface δ15N(NO3−) measurements range from −5 ‰ to 10 ‰ and suggest that the local nitrate burden in the Uintah Basin is dominated by primary emissions from anthropogenic sources, except during fresh snowfall events, where remote NOx sources from beyond the basin are dominant. Modeled daily-averaged snow-sourced Nr fluxes range from 5.6−71 × 107 molec cm−2 s−1 over the course of the field campaign, with a maximum noon-time value of 3.1 × 109 molec cm−2 s−1. The top-down emission estimate of primary, anthropogenic NOx in the Uintah and Duchesne counties is at least 300 times higher than the estimated snow NOx emissions presented in this study. Our results suggest that snow-sourced reactive nitrogen fluxes are minor contributors to the Nr boundary layer budget in the highly-polluted Uintah Basin boundary layer during winter 2014.

More Publications

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center