ARB Research Seminar

This page updated June 19, 2013

Light-Absorbing Aerosols (BC) over Snow in the Sierra Nevada

Richard A. VanCuren, Ph.D., California Air Resources Board

April 13, 2011
Cal EPA Headquarters, 1001 "I" Street, Sacramento, CA



Deposition of dark material to snow enhances melting, accelerates spring runoff, and decreases snow pack duration and water storage. This amplifies the effects of climate warming in alpine and polar environments by decreasing the effective annual mean albedo, thus increasing both solar heat retention and vegetation water demand. This process may adversely impact California montane ecosystems and the State's water resources. This research examined the wet and dry deposition of dark material to the California snow pack. Analysis of "BC" in snow and in aerosols over snow at three very different sites in the Sierra-Cascade range in California differentiates various local and regional darkening impacts to the California snow pack and suggests future research approaches to assess the condition of the State's snow resource and to evaluate the validity of regional models of pollution impacts on snow.

Speaker Biography

Richard A. VanCuren, Ph.D., is a staff research scientist at the Atmospheric Processes Research Section, Research Division, Air Resources Board (ARB) conducting studies involving air pollution with an emphasis on aerosols. Dr. VanCuren's work at ARB has included developing air quality standards, developing exposure data for epidemiology, studying the effects of pollution on vegetation, and conducting research into the sources and impacts of aerosols in California and throughout the West. Since 2001 he has also been collaborating with researchers at the University of California, Davis (UCD) on developing and applying advanced methods to the study of long range transport of aerosols, especially the transport of pollution across the Pacific from Asia to North America. His early professional career focused on general environmental and land management activities, including GIS development and application at Environmental Systems Research, Inc. (ESRI). Moving to the U.S. Navy's R&D labs at China Lake, California, he began his air pollution work with analysis of visibility problems affecting aircraft and missile testing and also representing the Navy in power plant siting hearings before the California Energy Commission. Through this experience he decided to refocus on the study of air pollution, especially aerosols. Dr. VanCuren was born and raised in Southern California, attending the University of California, Riverside where he earned Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Physical Geography, emphasizing Climatology. He later went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Geography at UCD. Dr. VanCuren joined the Research Division of the California Air Resources Board in 1985, where he has remained to the present pending a newly accepted position at UCD later this spring. Dr. VanCuren has authored numerous ARB reports and scientific publications, and continues to conduct research for ARB and through UCD on the sources and effects of particles in the air.

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