the Arctic Circle to Fluvanna, scientist studies nature and
courtesy of Jose Fuentes
and an international team of scientists went to Alert, Nanavut,
Canada to study the effects of the polar sunrise on ozone.
Fuentes has studied the atmosphere from a jungle canopy in Brazil
in humid, sticky 105-degree heat. He has studied the atmosphere
from the top of the world in the dark Arctic winter on an ice
sheet at minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And he has studied the atmosphere
from a forest tower in the Virginia piedmont.
go anywhere on the planet to better understand the intricacies
of our atmosphere and how it interacts with the Earth, Fuentes
said. The worlds best laboratory is nature itself.
is an atmospheric scientist in the Department
of Environmental Sciences, specializing in deciphering the
interplay between the surface land and water, natural or
human-caused and the atmosphere. This surface/atmosphere
interchange has implications on everything from the quality of
the air we breathe, to how well trees and plants grow, to how
the weather behaves and, ultimately, long-term climate change.
winter Fuentes went with an international team of scientists to
an ice camp in Alert, Nanavut, Canada, above the Arctic Circle,
to study the effects of the polar sunrise on ozone. Ozone is a
naturally occurring gas that can be harmful or beneficial to life
depending on its quantities and the altitude where it occurs.
We want to assess the condition of ozone at the Arctic as
a piece of the puzzle for understanding the distribution of ozone
globally, Fuentes says.
team spent three weeks measuring ozone during the dark days of
winter. The sun does not rise above the horizon until early March
at that latitude. Scientists have recently discovered that the
suns rays destroy ozone at ground level during those first
appearances of sunlight. Understanding this phenomenon could eventually
help atmospheric scientists better assess ozone levels globally.
an amazing privilege to travel to the ends of the Earth and learn
about how our planet works, Fuentes said. In order
to understand the effects we humans are having on the earth and
atmosphere, we must understand what nature is doing. We have to
get our science right if we are to intelligently manage our environmental
will return to the Arctic again next winter to continue his work.
Much closer to home Fuentes is leading a research project with
a group of graduate students at the Department of Environmental
Sciences atmospheric research facility in Fluvanna County.
Using a 120-foot tower twice the height of the surrounding
trees they are studying the exchange of energy and gasses
between the forest and atmosphere. Studies such as this are important
to understanding climate change.
atmosphere knows no international boundaries, Fuentes said.
What happens in one place air pollution for example
affects other places, and can have long-term impacts. We
have to go to the field, gather data and analyze it to understand
what is happening to our environment. If our science is good,
it will have a positive influence on local and global environmental