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Dry lake bed salts promote cloud formation

Date:
September 13, 2010
Source:
American Geophysical Union
Summary:
One of the major uncertainties in climate modeling is the effect of aerosol particles on cloud formation. Sea salt in the air has been known to be important in cloud formation over oceans. A new study now provides the first direct measurements of clouds showing that wind-blown dust from dry lake beds (playas) can also act as cloud condensation nuclei, encouraging the formation of clouds over continents and thereby affecting climate.

One of the major uncertainties in climate modeling is the effect of aerosol particles on cloud formation. Sea salt in the air has been known to be important in cloud formation over oceans.

A new study now provides the first direct measurements of clouds showing that wind-blown dust from dry lake beds (playas) can also act as cloud condensation nuclei, encouraging the formation of clouds over continents and thereby affecting climate.

Using aircraft-based measurements, Pratt et al. detected playa dust, which is mainly composed of salts, in clouds over Wyoming. The researchers also conducted laboratory studies that confirm that playa salts can act as cloud-condensation nuclei.

Because climate change and land use changes could result in the formation of more dry lake beds and increasing frequency of dust storms, it is important to understand the effects of playa salts on cloud formation and climate.

Authors of the study include: Kerri A. Pratt, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA; Cynthia H. Twohy, Department of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Shane M. Murphy, Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA; Ryan C. Moffet, Chemical Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California, USA; Andrew J. Heymsfield, Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA; Cassandra J. Gaston, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA; Paul J. DeMott, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA; Paul R. Field, Atmospheric Processes and Parameterizations, Met Office, Exeter, UK; Tobias R. Henn, Chemical Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California, USA, and Department of Physics, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany; David C. Rogers, Earth Observing Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA; Mary K. Gilles, Chemical Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California, USA; John H. Seinfeld, Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA; Kimberly A. Prather, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Geophysical Union. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kerri A. Pratt, Cynthia H. Twohy, Shane M. Murphy, Ryan C. Moffet, Andrew J. Heymsfield, Cassandra J. Gaston, Paul J. DeMott, Paul R. Field, Tobias R. Henn, David C. Rogers, Mary K. Gilles, John H. Seinfeld, Kimberly A. Prather. Observation of playa salts as nuclei in orographic wave clouds. Journal of Geophysical Research, 2010; 115 (D15): D15301 DOI: 10.1029/2009JD013606

Cite This Page:

American Geophysical Union. "Dry lake bed salts promote cloud formation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100831095317.htm>.
American Geophysical Union. (2010, September 13). Dry lake bed salts promote cloud formation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100831095317.htm
American Geophysical Union. "Dry lake bed salts promote cloud formation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100831095317.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

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