Leonard Barrie

Dr. Len Barrie is an atmospheric chemist, currently an Adjunct Professor at McGill University, who has spent much of his professional career studying various aspects of chemistry of and long-range transport of chemical species to the Arctic.  He obtained his BS degree in engineering physics from Queens University in Ontario, an MS in cloud physics and meteorology from the U. of Toronto, and a PhD in atmospheric chemistry and meteorology from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe University, Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics, in Frankfurt, Germany.  Len’s accomplishments include many years of study of the transport of organic contaminants such as PCBs, pesticides and PAHS to the Arctic, and the use of analysis of the chemical composition in Arctic aerosols to determine the origin of the precursors of “Arctic Haze”.  He and collaborators Jan Bottenheim, Russ Schnell, Paul Crutzen, and Rei Rasmussen discovered the remarkable inverse correlation between ozone and aerosol phase bromine in the Arctic.



Interviews

2024

Dr. Leonard Barrie’s video captures a conversation with two close friends in the Arctic, reflecting on his diverse upbringing and career in meteorology. The discussion begins with an inquiry into Barrie’s background, prompting him to recount his upbringing in various locations, including Sherbrooke, Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Richland (Washington), Frankfurt, Geneva, Stockholm, and Cyprus. The dialogue highlights a notable nine-month stint in Grob, an experience that left a lasting impression. Barrie reflects on the influence of these diverse environments on his development, both personally and professionally. The conversation delves into his journey into meteorology and the impact of living in such contrasting locales. Amidst reminiscing about his past, the discussion touches on which place held the most enjoyment for Barrie. Overall, the video offers an intimate glimpse into Barrie’s life and the pivotal role geography played in shaping his identity and career path.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie recounts his upbringing in rural Quebec, where he developed a deep love for nature, especially snow and ice. This passion led him to pursue meteorology, starting with a master’s program specializing in cloud physics. His fascination with snow crystallization and ice formation propelled him into a PhD program in Frankfurt. Through his journey, Barrie’s childhood experiences and academic pursuits intertwined, shaping his career in atmospheric science.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie reflects on his trajectory within Environment Canada, which eventually led him to the Arctic. Initially, he was involved in a joint program with the Alberta oil sands, focusing on snow pack chemistry surveys. However, his interest shifted when he encountered research by Ken Ron from the University of Rhode Island, highlighting elevated levels of pollution in Barrow, Alaska. This prompted Barrie to establish a network across the Arctic to investigate pollution levels further. Through sampling and collaboration with modelers, he uncovered the widespread nature of Arctic pollution and its origins. This journey culminated in hosting the second Atmospheric Arctic Air Chemistry Symposium in Toronto in 1983, solidifying his involvement in Arctic research.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie discusses his Arctic research journey, highlighting key collaborations and discoveries. In 1986, he conducted ozone measurements at Alert as part of a cooperative program with Russell Schnell from Boulder. Reflecting on their early work in Fort McMurray and the Alberta oil sands, Barrie recalls how this laid the groundwork for ongoing research by Environment and Climate Change Canada. A personal anecdote shared by Paul regarding a chance encounter with a former student at a hotel adds a serendipitous twist to the story. The conversation shifts to the composition of Arctic haze, with Barrie noting changes attributed to increased forest fire frequency. Despite this, he emphasizes the region’s insulation from direct impact due to its higher latitude.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie recounts the significant impact of his discovery at Alert on his scientific career. The breakthrough stemmed from ongoing work involving high volume air samplers and neutron activation analysis, tracking major ions and trace elements, including bromine, chlorine, and iodine. By 1986, Barrie had amassed a six-year time series dataset from Alert, revealing bromine’s seasonal peak in spring. However, the ozone connection didn’t crystallize until Yon Bottenheim’s involvement in the April 1986 AGASP (Arctic Gas and Aerosol Sampling Program) expedition. Collaborating with Bottenheim, Barrie observed a striking anti-correlation between bromine aerosol and ozone depletion events, indicating a meteorological influence. Barrie attributes his comprehensive understanding of this phenomenon to his background in both meteorology and atmospheric chemistry, further enriched by collaborations with boundary layer meteorologists like Bob McKellar and Jerry Deane Hartog. He also fondly mentions lifelong collaborator Jose Fuentes, who completed his PhD at Guelph University. This discovery not only advanced Barrie’s scientific trajectory but also underscored the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in atmospheric research.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie reflects on his experiences in the Arctic during the late 1980s and early 1990s. He describes the remote and tranquil atmosphere of the Special Studies Laboratory, emphasizing the profound quietude and stillness of the environment. Barrie marvels at the vastness and beauty of the Arctic landscape, accentuated by the crisp, wind-driven snowpack, which contrasts with the softer snow of his Appalachian upbringing. Despite the extreme cold, he feels at home in this environment, finding it peaceful and relaxing. Barrie’s colleague, Pete, shares similar sentiments, having also explored various facets of the Arctic. The duo’s experiences, including flying over the Arctic Ocean, evoke a sense of gratitude towards Barrie for facilitating such unforgettable adventures.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie reflects on his scientific achievements, particularly his contributions to understanding Arctic air chemistry. He highlights the significance of his work in unraveling the widespread nature of pollution in the Arctic and its origins in Europe and Asia. Barrie’s publication in 1985 provided a crucial overview of Arctic air chemistry, setting the stage for further research in the field. Additionally, he mentions his collaboration with Bill Schroer on the connection between halogen chemistry and the mercury cycle, emphasizing the transformative impact of this discovery on the scientific community. Paul acknowledges Barrie’s role in changing lives and scientific focus, emphasizing the importance of serendipity in scientific discovery. Overall, Barrie’s work has significantly advanced our understanding of atmospheric processes in the Arctic and beyond.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie discusses his involvement in acid rain research, particularly in setting up the Air and Precipitation Monitoring Network for Canada, which later evolved into the Canadian Air and Precipitation Monitoring Network (CAPMoN). This initiative reflects the broader atmospheric science community’s efforts in addressing and solving the issue of acid rain, a problem now considered largely resolved. Barrie also reflects on collaborations with Carrie Pratt and Lucy Carpenter regarding iodine research, highlighting the intriguing findings regarding seasonal variations in bromide and iodine levels. These discoveries spurred interest in studying photochemistry within snowpacks, with Europeans and other researchers approaching the topic from different perspectives. Barrie emphasizes the contrasting viewpoints between those studying halogen chemistry from satellite data and those examining ground-level instrumentation, underscoring the complexities of Arctic atmospheric chemistry. These insights have had a significant impact on understanding long-range transport chemistry and its implications for various fields, including the study of ice cores and post-depositional processing of chemical species in snow.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie reflects on the observable impacts of climate change both at home and in the Arctic. He notes significant changes in the timing of the sugaring season in southern Quebec, with maple tapping starting earlier due to warmer temperatures. Barrie also highlights the drastic reduction in multi-year ice fraction in the Arctic Ocean, leading to the projection that the Arctic Ocean will become a seasonal lake by the middle of this century, with implications for atmospheric chemistry and ocean dynamics. He discusses the turbulence over open water, sea salt deposition into the snowpack, and the profound effects of diminishing sea ice on Arctic communities and subsistence hunting practices.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie discusses his involvement in studying persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the Arctic, alongside his atmospheric chemistry research. He highlights the collaboration with the Northern Contaminants Program in Canada and the Arctic Monitoring Assessment Program, focusing on measuring POPs in the high Arctic. Barrie describes setting up samplers in various locations, including the Yukon, Gluck, and Alert, as well as a contract in Russia. He emphasizes the importance of this research in generating valuable databases and insights into POPs, contributing to international conventions like the Stockholm Convention. Barrie’s discussion prompts reflection on the evolving understanding of atmospheric stewardship and the recognition of the atmosphere’s limited capacity.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie discusses his perspective on the future and climate change. While he expresses skepticism about meeting the targets set by international accords due to the time required for implementing new technologies and infrastructures, he remains optimistic about the gradual “Greening” of societies. Barrie acknowledges the challenges in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, highlighting the complexities of updating electric grids and the slow pace of change. He emphasizes the importance of economics in driving the adoption of renewable energy, noting the declining costs of solar panels. However, Barrie also expresses concern about the environmental impacts of climate change, particularly in the Arctic, where he fears future generations may not experience the same environment as the present one.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie discusses his transition into retirement, highlighting his continued engagement in various activities. While officially retired, he maintains involvement as the science advisor to the European infrastructure project ACTRIS and serves as the chair of the local chapter of the Canadian meteorological and oceanographic society. Barrie also pursues personal interests such as learning to play the clarinet, cross-country skiing, Nordic skating, and canoeing. He enjoys the balance between private and physical activities, including spending time with his two dogs. Despite a busy schedule, Barrie looks forward to quieter moments in nature with his partner, reflecting on the fulfilling aspects of retirement.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie shares a memorable story from his time working in the Arctic, highlighting both the excitement and the challenges of the environment. He recounts a moment with his colleague Joe Kovik during the establishment of a special studies laboratory at Alert. While preparing for the Polar Sunrise expedition in 1992, Joe encountered an unexpected encounter with an arctic fox. Despite the freezing temperatures, the foxes were attracted to Joe’s discarded gloves, prompting a comical chase as Joe pursued the playful animals. The incident reflects the unique blend of adventure and wildlife encounters that characterize Arctic research expeditions. Leonard fondly recalls the significance of the special studies lab as a hub for groundbreaking scientific discoveries amidst the captivating Arctic landscape.

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