FACE-CHANGING DUST-In the presence of water vapor, calcite crystals (left columns) react with nitric acid to form liquid calcium nitrate particles (right columns). These electron microscopy images illustrate the formation of these new particles in laboratory-controlled experiments with commercial calcite powders (top) and in a sample of authentic dust (bottom), loess collected in a region of China where the loamy soil is high in calcium and particularly reactive. (Images by Alexander Laskin, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.)
Team discovers large, new class of airborne particles unaccounted for in climate models
Dry dust reacts with air pollutants to form dewy particles whose sunlight-reflecting and cloud-altering properties are unaccounted for in atmospheric models. "Calcite-containing dust particles blow into the air and encounter gaseous nitric acid in polluted air from factories to form an entirely new particle of calcium nitrate," said Alexander Laskin, a senior research scientist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.
"These nitrates have optical and chemical properties that are absolutely different from those of originally dry dust particles, and climate models need to be updated to reflect this chemistry." Calcite dust is ubiquitous in arid areas such as Israel, where this past winter Laskin and colleagues Vicki Grassian, chemistry professor at the University of Iowa, and Yinon Rudich, professor of environmental sciences and energy research at the Weizmann Institute of Science, collected particles for analysis. Laskin presented their findings Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting.
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