Susan Kaspari
Assistant Professor
Department of Geological Sciences
108D Lind Hall
tel: +1 509 963-2738
fax: +1 509 963-2821
Ph.D. University of Maine, 2007

Curriculum Vitae (pdf)


My primary research interest is investigating the role that black carbon plays in current and past climate change. Black carbon is a dark absorptive particle produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil and bio-fuels. In the atmosphere black carbon absorbs energy and causes atmospheric heating, Photo of sampling in Khumbu region of Nepal while black carbon deposited on snow and ice causes darkening of the surface, resulting in greater absorption of solar energy, heating of the snow/ice, and accelerated snow and glacier melt. Black carbon is a major contributor to observed climate warming, but remains a large source of uncertainty in analyses of climate change.

My research group works to:

  1. Assess black carbon concentrations in the present and past atmosphere, and investigate the impact of atmospheric black carbon on climate.

  2. Evaluate the extent to which black carbon deposited on snow and glacier surfaces can accelerate melt.

To conduct this research we analyze the chemical composition of snow samples and ice cores retrieved from high elevation mountain glaciers and polar ice sheets, and make direct atmospheric measurements. Extracting an ice core Instrumentation in my laboratory includes a Single Particle Soot Photometer (SP2) and a Sunset OC-EC Analyzer.

In addition to my black carbon research, I am interested in reconstructing past climate (paleoclimatology) to achieve an understanding of how the Earth’s climate system operates, and documenting recent environmental change related to human activities. By analyzing the chemistry (trace and major elements, stable isotopes, and black carbon) of ice cores, the composition of the atmosphere can be reconstructed. Through my research, I have worked in Antarctica, China (Tibetan Plateau), Nepal, Tajikistan, New Zealand, Switzerland and Washington State.

Selected Publications

  • Kaspari, S., M. Schwikowski, M. Gysel, M. G. Flanner, S. Kang, S. Hou, and P. A. Mayewski, Recent increase in black carbon concentrations from a Mt. Everest ice core spanning 1860-2000 AD, Geophysical Research Letters, doi10.1029/2010GL046096R, 2011.

  • Kaspari, S., P.A. Mayewski, M.J. Handley, E.C. Osterberg, S. Kang, S. Hou, and D. Qin, Recent increases in atmospheric concentrations of Bi, U, Cs, Ca and S from a 350-Year Mt. Everest ice core record, Journal of Geophysical Research, doi:10.1029/2008JD011088, 2009.

  • Kaspari, S., P.A. Mayewski, M.J. Handley, S. Kang, S. Hou, K. Maasch, and D. Qin, A high-resolution record of atmospheric dust variability and composition since 1650 AD from a Mt. Everest Ice Core, Journal of Climate, 22, 3910-3925, 2009.

  • Kaspari, S., R. LeB. Hooke, P. Mayewski, S. Kang, S. Hou, D. Qin, Snow accumulation rate on Mt. Everest: Synchroneity with sites across the Tibetan Plateau on 50-100 year timescales, Journal of Glaciology, 54, (185), 2008.

  • Kaspari, S., P.A. Mayewski, S. Kang, S. Sneed, S. Hou, R. Hooke, K.J. Kreutz, D. Introne, M.J. Handley, K. Maasch, D. Qin, and J. Ren, Reduction in northward incursions of the South Asian Monsoon since ~1400 AD inferred from a Mt. Everest ice core, Geophysical Research Letters, doi:10.1029/2007GL030440, 2007.

  • Kaspari, S., P. Mayewski, D. Dixon, S. Sneed, and M. Handley, Sources and transport pathways of marine aerosol species into West Antarctica, Annals of Glaciology, 41, 1-9, 2005.

  • Kaspari, S., P.A. Mayewski, D. Dixon, V.B. Spikes, S. Sneed, M. Handley, and G.S. Hamilton, Climate variability in West Antarctica derived from annual accumulation records from ITASE firn/ice cores, Annals of Glaciology, 39, 585-594, 2004.


  • GEOL 423/523: The Cryosphere
  • GEOL 441/541: Climate Variability and Climate Change
  • GEOL 380: Environmental Geology and Natural Hazards
  • GEOL 107: Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Civilization
  • GEOL 503: Graduate Research Methods