Sulfate and methanesulfonic acid (MSA) concentrations in aerosol, surface snow, and snowpit samples have been measured at two sites on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Seasonal variations of the concentrations observed for these chemical species in the atmosphere are reproduced in the surface snow and preserved in the snowpit sequence. The amplitude of the variations over a year are smaller in the snow than in the air, but the ratios of the concentrations are comparable. The seasonal variations for sulfate are different at the altitude of the Ice Sheet compared to those observed at sea level, with low concentrations in winter and short episodes of elevated concentrations in spring. In contrast, the variations in concentrations of MSA are similar to those measured at sea level, with a first sequence of elevated concentrations in spring and another one during summer, and a winter low resulting from low biogenic production. The ratio MSA/sulfate clearly indicates the influence of high-latitude sources for the summer maximum of MSA, but the large impact of anthropogenic sulfate precludes any conclusion for the spring maximum. The seasonal pattern observed for these species in a snowpit sampled according to stratigraphy indicates a deficit in the accumulation of winter snow at the summit of the Greenland Ice Sheet, in agreement with some direct observations. A deeper snowpit covering the years 1985–1992 indicates the consistency of the seasonal pattern for MSA over the years, which may be linked to transport and deposition processes.


Earth Sciences, Earth Systems Research Center

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Geophysical Research



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type



Copyright 1994 by the American Geophysical Union.