Kerri Pratt

Professor of Chemistry, University of Michigan

https://lsa.umich.edu/chem/people/faculty/prattka.html

Kerri Pratt is a Professor of Chemistry and Earth & Environmental Sciences at University of Michigan. She is an environmental chemist who studies the interactions between gases, atmospheric particles, clouds, and snow in the Arctic and wintertime environments to inform understanding of climate change and air quality. Her focus is on field-based measurements using single-particle mass spectrometry and chemical ionization mass spectrometry. Dr. Pratt is a leading researcher in the study of halogen chemistry in the Arctic, including chemical mechanisms involving both aerosol particles (e.g., sea spray aerosol) and the snowpack that are key components of pollutant fate and natural chemical cycles in polar ice and snow-covered environments.

Interviews

2012


2022

Chemist Kerri Pratt from the University of Michigan shares her firsthand observations of significant climate change over the past 10 years. She describes how coastal erosion has caused roads to disappear and how the presence of sea ice near the shore in summer has dramatically decreased. Kerri discusses the changing weather patterns, such as waves crashing at the shore in early February and freeze-up happening later in the year. She emphasizes the impact of these changes on the local environment, including the reduction of sea ice and the importance of studying sea spray aerosol production. Despite these concerning transformations, Kerri finds joy in sharing the Arctic experience with others, especially witnessing her students’ excitement when encountering for the first time phenomena like the Northern Lights and polar bears.

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Professor of Chemistry Kerri Pratt discusses her ongoing research on snowpack photochemistry and aerosol composition, building on the work of her mentor, Dr. Paul Shepson. She explains how her team connects sea spray with snowpack halogen chemistry and Arctic Haze, studying the interactions between gasses and particles in a comprehensive system. Kerri highlights the importance of sea spray throughout the year, including a surprising discovery of sea spray with thick organic coatings, resembling algal blooms. Through years of analysis, she has found that these coatings are exopolymeric substances produced by sea ice algae and bacteria. This revelation has connected seawater microbiology to sea spray, leading to collaborations with experts in the field. Kerri and her collaborators are currently working on a project to investigate sea spray aerosol production in the high Arctic during summertime pack ice conditions, stemming from an Icebreaker campaign conducted several years ago.

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Arctic atmospheric chemistry expert Kerri Pratt from the University of Michigan shares insights from her research on sea spray and its effects on the Arctic environment. She discusses the role of sea spray in cloud formation, the impact of local pollution from oil fields, and the importance of engaging with local communities for scientific understanding. Her work highlights the significance of studying atmospheric chemistry in remote and unexplored regions.

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Kerri Pratt reflects on the disconnect between scientific knowledge and personal experiences of rapid climate change in the Arctic. Despite writing about it in research proposals and papers, witnessing the tremendous impact of sea ice loss within just 10 years is a startling realization. Kerri emphasizes the need to stay emotionally detached to cope with the frightening implications. But she acknowledges the resilience of Arctic communities who remain positive amidst ongoing changes, envisioning more water and increased fishing opportunities. The magnitude of change in the Arctic, such as open water in winter, is both awe-inspiring and alarming.

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