Remote ice core, snow, and air filter samples can potentially profile past and present atmospheric characteristics, acting as media to preserve populations of particulate matter. Major constituents of these aerosols derive from combustion processes (fossil and biomass) and airborne minerals. Extraction and characterization of these particles with scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS) provide morphological and elemental data used in determining the presence and sources of atmospheric aerosols. Due to the minute quantity of carbonaceous particles in the snow and ice samples, ca. 1-10 ng g-1, the microscopist faces several principal challenges to prepare and analyze these samples. First, methodology must be established for particle removal in a clean and quantitative fashion. Secondly, since carbon is contained in many of the particles under analysis, techniques must be established to achieve quantitative carbon X-ray data. The SEM requires optimization in order to analyze the greatest number of particles in the least time.