Dynamics of Arctic Geochemical and Microbial Processes Altered by Global Warming

Colin Inglefield and Marek Matyjasik

Within the scope of this project the researchers have been able to obtain more than a thousand images of the microstructure of calcite surfaces prior to and following one year of exposure to arctic environments. After obtaining these images the group started to work on quantitative analysis of the microscopic roughness of these surfaces to quantify differences between samples and between different areas of the same sample. Acquisition of images is a time-consuming process, requiring roughly 10 minutes per image.

Results of atomic force microscopy (AFM) studies show significant changes observed on calcite samples located respectively about 2500 meters (sample calcite 1) and 100 m (sample calcite 2) from the glacier front as compared to a control sample calcite 0, that has never been exposed to glacier environment. This is the major finding of the research. Even though thermodynamic equilibrium of calcite indicates more pronounced chemical weathering in lower temperatures, our findings show that overall climatic conditions, including soil moisture and below-freezing temperatures, in fact resulted in very rapid reactions on calcite surfaces. Since this type of research has never been conducted before, all researchers involved in this project are very excited that the first set of results allowed the researchers to observe and quantitatively measure changes occurring on mineral surfaces.

Three WSU students (Sara Summers, Sam Sorenson and Jasin Olsen) have been working on the project in 2008 through funding from the Bingham grant and the College of Science Beishline Fellowship.

The results of this project have been already been presented at one international conference (1), and additional results will be presented at two other international conferences this year (2, 3). Sara Summers has also received funding through the Office of Undergraduate Research to present her results.

This pilot project has provided another measure of weathering and possible global climate impacts via effects on calcite surfaces.

Resulting Publications

(1) Anna Plonka, Maciej Manecki, Sara Summers, Marek Matyjasik, Colin Inglefield. Alterations on the surface of apatite and calcite buried in arctic soil (Spitsbergen): an AFM and SEM study. Abstract published in Second Central European Mineralogical Conference, Szklarska Poreba, Poland, September 11-14, 2008.

(2) Sara Summers, AFM Arctic Study of Calcite Surfaces. To be presented at the Sigma Xi Scientific Society annual meeting, Washington, DC, November 20-23, 2008.

(3) Sara Summers, Marek Matyjasik, Colin Inglefield, Maciej Manecki, Anna Plonka, Chad Paget, Corey Park. AFM Observations of Weathering and Microbiological Alterations on the Surface of Calcite Buried in Arctic Soil (Spitsbergen). To be presented at Annual Meeting of American Geophysical Union, December 11-16, 2008, San Francisco.