By altering the amount of solar energy that reaches the Earth's surface, aerosols influence both regional and global climate, but their impact is difficult to quantify because most only stay airborne for about a week, while greenhouse gases can persist in the atmosphere for decades. In a study published Jan. 24 in the American Geophysical Union's Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, researchers investigated the sources of aerosols and how different types of aerosols influence climate.
"This study offers details on the aerosol source regions and emission source types that policy makers could target to most effectively combat climate change," said Dorothy Koch, lead author and atmospheric scientist at Columbia University and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), New York.
Using a GISS computer model that includes a variety of data gathered by NASA and other U.S. satellites, the researchers simulated realistic aerosol concentrations of important aerosol types in the atmosphere and studied the amount of light and heat they absorb and reflect over several regions around the globe.
Each area has a unique mix of natural and pollutant aerosol sources that produces different types of aerosols and causes complex climate effects. The industry and power sectors are particularly important in North America and Europe and produce large amounts of sulfur dioxide, while Asia has higher emissions from residential sources, which produce relatively more carbon-containing aerosols.
"Computer model simulations showed that black carbon in the Arctic, a potentially important driver in climate change, derives its largest portion from Southeast Asian residential sources," said Koch. "According to current model estimates, the residential sector appears to have a substantial potential to cause climate warming and therefore, could potentially be targeted to counter the effects of global warming."
Black carbon, commonly called soot, is generated from motor vehicles and industrial pollution, in addition to outdoor fires and household burning of coal and bio-fuels. Soot is produced by incomplete combustion, especially of diesel fuels, coal and wood. Residential soot emissions are largest in areas where cooking and heating are done with wood, field residue, animal dung and coal.
Black carbon absorbs sunlight, warming the atmosphere just as dark pavement absorbs more sunlight and becomes hotter than light pavement. It has a large influence on global climate because winds transport approximately half of the black carbon aerosols produced in important aerosol source regions like Asia and South Africa to other parts of the world. When lofted above precipitating clouds, these aerosols can remain airborne for relatively longer periods. Some of these aerosols are carried to polar regions where they settle on the surface of ice or snow and absorb sunlight and boost melting.
Most particles, especially sulfates produced from the sulfur dioxide emissions of factories and power plants, are light-colored and tend to cool the atmosphere by reflecting sunlight or making clouds more reflective. Computer model simulations suggest this effect is especially heightened over parts of the Northern Hemisphere, including the central United States. The study found, however, that sulfur dioxide emissions in Southeast Asia and Europe have a smaller impact on climate because atmospheric conditions in those areas are not as efficient at turning the emissions into sulfate particles.
The study also showed large amounts of aerosols containing organic carbon -- which also tend to cool the atmosphere and partially offset the warming from greenhouse gas emissions -- are produced by biomass (vegetation) burning. Most of the worldâ€™s biomass burning emissions appear to come from Africa and secondarily, from South America. However, precipitation removes a greater proportion of biomass-burning aerosols from the atmosphere over Africa than over South America. As a result, more than one-half of the biomass-burning aerosols in the Southern Hemisphere can be traced back to South America.
"This research is only the first step in considering the impacts of aerosols from different sectors on climate," said Koch. "Aerosols have other effects, like altering cloud characteristics that influence precipitation and climate." In a related paper accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, the researchers examine how anticipated advances in technology will impact the amount of aerosols emitted from each sector in the future, so that specific regions and types of aerosols can be targeted.
Lynn Chandler | EurekAlert!
Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores
07.12.2016 | Santa Fe Institute
Sea ice hit record lows in November
07.12.2016 | University of Colorado at Boulder
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine
07.12.2016 | Life Sciences
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine