Bonnie Light’s principal research interest is the study of how solar radiation interacts with Earth’s cryosphere. In particular, her focus is on understanding relationships between the physical and optical properties of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. The relative amounts of sunlight incident on sea ice that are backscattered to the atmosphere, absorbed by the ice, and transmitted to the ocean depend strongly on the physical properties of the ice. This partitioning of energy in turn controls a significant part of the heat budget of the polar oceans and may influence how sea ice drives and responds to changes in climate.
One aspect of Dr. Light’s work involves the development of theoretical radiative transfer models for snow and ice. She also conducts laboratory experiments within a walk-in freezer using samples of natural and laboratory-grown sea ice. Such experiments give insight into relationships between the ice structure and its optical properties. In particular, they have been instrumental in helping us understand the importance of sea ice microstructure in determining the radiative properties of ice covers. She is also actively engaged in making field observations of the optical properties of snow and sea ice. This work includes investigation of the optical properties of melting ice covers as well as sediment laden sea ice in the Arctic Basin.