Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Discovery simplifies view of atmospheric aerosols, a factor in climate change

Date:
May 28, 2010
Source:
Colorado State University
Summary:
The large number of tiny organic aerosols floating in the atmosphere -- emitted from tailpipes and trees alike -- share enough common characteristics as a group that scientists can generalize their makeup and how they change in the atmosphere, according to new research.

Pollution in Mexico City.
Credit: Sasha Madronich at NCAR

The large number of tiny organic aerosols floating in the atmosphere -- emitted from tailpipes and trees alike -- share enough common characteristics as a group that scientists can generalize their makeup and how they change in the atmosphere.

The groundbreaking research by Colette Heald, assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, was highlighted this month on the cover of the American Geophysical Union's Geophysical Research Letters.

"The hope is that we can start to accurately represent organic aerosols in climate models so we can address how they impact climate and air quality, and particularly the issue of how much is natural and how much comes from human activities," Heald said. "What we're really trying to get at is the composition -- what's in the atmosphere, how is it changing and where does it have an environmental impact? Many of the compounds in the atmosphere are really short lived, so the picture changes quickly."

The atmosphere contains many different kinds of aerosols such as dust and sulfate as well as organic aerosols. These organic aerosols come from many different sources, including fossil fuel emission and wildfires. Fungi, bacteria and pollen are among the major biologically produced organic aerosol particles. Further complicating the picture are atmospheric gases that change over time and can become aerosols in the atmosphere.

But for climate models, the differences may not matter as much as previously thought.

Heald plotted hydrogen-to-carbon and oxygen-to-carbon ratios from observations of aerosols in the laboratory and in field experiments from such places as Mexico City, the Amazon and Los Angeles. Even though the studies looked at different aerosols from very different environments, she could classify them as a group based on their overall oxygen and hydrogen content.

Oxygen also plays a role in changing the chemical makeup of aerosols. The longer aerosols have been in the atmosphere, the more their composition has been altered- a process called oxidation.

As a result, the observed differences Heald found are plotted along a trajectory -- from the freshest, most recent emissions from a diesel truck, for example, to particles that have been in the atmosphere for several days.

"In recent years, we've realized there are thousands and thousands of different organic species in the atmosphere," Heald said. "With this study, we've found a simple way to describe all that complexity."

"It's still very important that we understand the different individual species in our atmosphere, but from a modeling perspective, it gives us hope we can simplify our entire description of organic aerosol composition."

Heald's collaborators included Jesse Kroll, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and scientists at the University of Colorado, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Harvard University and the Universidade de Sao Paulo in Sao Paulo, Brazil.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Colorado State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. L. Heald, J. H. Kroll, J. L. Jimenez, K. S. Docherty, P. F. DeCarlo, A. C. Aiken, Q. Chen, S. T. Martin, D. K. Farmer, P. Artaxo. A simplified description of the evolution of organic aerosol composition in the atmosphere. Geophysical Research Letters, 2010; 37 (8): L08803 DOI: 10.1029/2010GL042737

Cite This Page:

Colorado State University. "Discovery simplifies view of atmospheric aerosols, a factor in climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100526134245.htm>.
Colorado State University. (2010, May 28). Discovery simplifies view of atmospheric aerosols, a factor in climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100526134245.htm
Colorado State University. "Discovery simplifies view of atmospheric aerosols, a factor in climate change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100526134245.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) British researchers were able to use Mount Everest's low altitudes to study insulin resistance. They hope to find ways to treat diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 15, 2014) Pennsylvania-based Schramm is incorporating modern technology in its next generation oil-drigging rigs, making them smaller, safer and smarter. Ernest Scheyder reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

AFP (Apr. 14, 2014) To curb the growing numbers of feral cats in the US capital, the Washington Humane Society is encouraging residents to set traps and bring the animals to a sterilization clinic, after which they are released.. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins