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 prestigious 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.
Emily Wilmsen | EurekAlert!
NASA examines Peru's deadly rainfall
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Steep rise of the Bernese Alps
24.03.2017 | Universität Bern
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy