The Cold, Hard Facts About Brandon Strellis

Cold, Hard Facts:

Brandon Strellis building a snow lab on the Greenland Ice Sheet.Currently: Candidate for Master of Science in Environmental Engineering

Expected graduation date: Expectations are a dangerous thing to have.

Undergraduate education: 2010 B.S. in Civil Engineering, GT.

Hails from: All over. 

Hobbies: Reading, wandering, ruminating, staring intently at things, sports, training for the Olympics, and building and piloting miniature zeppelins.

Why he desires to be an engineer: Because a man ought to do something purposeful with his life.

The Latest Earth-Shattering Developments:

Brandon Strellis, international man of mystery, is currently in hot pursuit of a Master of Science degree in Environmental Engineering – anticipated graduation date: sooner or later. Thankfully, Brandon is already a master of punctuation. 

Sir Brandon, an honorary member of the Scottish Royal Court, was recently awarded an Outstanding Student Paper Award at the American Geophysical Union 2011 Fall Meeting for his presentation entitled “The Influence of Light-Absorbing Aerosols over Central Greenland: Preliminary Results.” The presentation was coauthored with his advisor, Dr. Mike Bergin, as well as collaborators Dr. Irina Sokolik from Georgia Tech, Dr. Jack Dibb from the University of New Hampshire, Dr. John Ogren and Patrick Sheridan from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Patrick Wright from the University of Houston.

Igloo nearing completion.Public hubbub surrounding this enigmatic figure is at an all-time high following his receipt of this latest honor.  Little is known about his life of adventure despite the public’s craving for knowledge about his exotic lifestyle.  Our own CEE correspondent recently sat down with Brandon and was fortunate to experience the knighted scientist at his most candid.

Interviewer: Brandon, can you tell me a little about the research behind this paper?

Brandon: Yes, absolutely.  This research was carried out at a National Science Foundation base called Summit Station located at the highest point on the Greenland Ice Sheet, approximately two miles above sea level.  Our research team was on site from May through July of the 2011 field season at Summit.  In addition to taking filter samples of both snow and air, we set up a permanent aerosol monitoring station to measure characteristics of the particles in the air over the ice sheet.

The overall goal of the project was to measure and quantify the impact of light-absorbing particles such as soot in the atmosphere over Central Greenland.  Because the surface in the high Arctic is often covered in snow and ice and is therefore very reflective, dark particles in the atmosphere can have a much larger effect in terms of atmospheric warming than in other areas of the world where the surface is not as reflective.  Our preliminary results showed that even very low concentrations of light-absorbing particles can have a significant effect on the amount of warming that takes place in the atmosphere due to absorption of sunlight by the particles. 

Dr. Michael Bergin and Patrick WrightInterviewer: Very interesting.  Could you tell us a little more about the experience beyond the research? It sounds like Summit was quite an unusual place.

Brandon: It really was! I’ve never seen any place like it.  The closest thing that I can imagine is a frozen moon.  It was surreal; the sun never set, but just dipped up and down on the horizon, encircling the camp; on clear days there was nothing but ice as far as the eye could see, and the entire surface was almost perfectly flat except for a few ripples from the wind; snowstorms would blow in, visibility would drop to a few hundred feet, and the world would turn to white.  It was beautiful in a hallucinatory way. 

Working conditions were harsh with temperatures ranging between -50°F and -10°F for most of the season. The researchers slept in special tents called Arctic Ovens, but it was still well below freezing inside the structures. Eventually, my team and I built a traditional igloo and slept in that instead.  It was warmer than the tents, and far more fitting.

We were flown in by a special wing of the Air National Guard which trains specifically to land on ice with ski-equipped planes. The runway at Summit is the longest ice runway in the world.  It’s also perfect for a casual Nordic ski after dinner.  Our flight out in May was delayed because of the volcano that erupted in Iceland last summer.  I’m pretty sure that we were the only people in the world trapped by the volcano plume.  We were stuck while Europe was jubilant that the plume hadn’t blown over them.

The coast of Greenland was incredible, too.  You can walk right onto the edge of the glacier.  It’s amazing to see it from the mountains on the coast, fjords on one side, an endless sea of ice on the other.  The meltwater from the glaciers forms enormous, powerful rivers that rip apart the landscape in the summer. 

Musk ox herd near the edge of the ice sheet.It’s a wild place, too.  I was charged by a musk ox, and a polar bear was shot in the town on the coast that served as our air base. 

I would encourage anyone with a sense of adventure and a keen intellect – and mine isn’t that keen, so you almost certainly qualify – to seek out such opportunities at Georgia Tech, since this fine institution has them, if you only go looking.

Interviewer: Sage advice! And who wouldn’t want to be charged by a musk ox.  Thanks for your time, Brandon.  It’s been a pleasure.

Brandon: Same to you, interviewer.