Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Saharan and Asian Dust, Biological Particles End Global Journey in California

01.03.2013
UCSD, NOAA study is the first to show that dust and other aerosols from one side of the world influence rainfall in another
A field study of aerosol impacts on clouds and precipitation in the Sierra Nevada shows that dust and microorganisms transported from as far away as the Sahara desert help to spur the precipitation that California counts on for its water supply.

The CalWater field campaign, funded by the California Energy Commission and led by UC San Diego and NOAA, could help western states better understand the future of their water supply and hydropower generation as climate change influences how much and how often dust travels around the world and alters precipitation far from its point of origin.

"UC San Diego is a leader in addressing complex, multi-disciplinary global challenges, such as water shortages and environmental concerns," said UCSD Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. "Our researchers work collaboratively to investigate and produce meaningful and impactful research that will further our understanding of our planet and environment, so we can improve human life and our world."

Jessie Creamean, a postdoctoral associate at NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., co-authored the paper appearing in the journal Science with Kaitlyn Suski, a graduate student in the laboratory of Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry Prof. Kimberly Prather, who holds appointments at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCSD.

Study leader UCSD Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry Prof. Kimberly Prather

"We were able to show dust and biological aerosols that made it from as far as the Sahara were incorporated into the clouds to form ice, then influenced the formation of the precipitation in California," said Creamean, who conducted the fieldwork as a UCSD graduate student under Prather, the study leader. "To our knowledge, no one has been able to directly determine the origin of the critical aerosols seeding mid-level clouds which ultimately produce periods with extensive precipitation typically in the form of snow at the ground."

The study, "Dust and Biological Aerosols from the Sahara and Asia Influence Precipitation in the Western US," appears Feb. 28 in online versions of Science.

The path of aerosols that reached California in 2011. Circled numbers indicate locations in which dust was captured in CALIPSO images. Image: Science

Researchers have long known that winds can carry aerosols such as dust at altitudes above 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) from continent to continent. An unrelated 2009 study found that in one instance, Asian dust made a complete circuit around the planet in 13 days.

These dust particles can act as ice nuclei within clouds at warmer temperatures than would occur in their absence. They initiate the freezing of water vapor and water droplets, then precipitate as rain, snow, or hail depending on whether meteorological conditions enable them to attain sufficient mass to fall from the sky before evaporating. Without ice nuclei, ice would likely not form in clouds with temperatures above -38 degrees C (-36.4 degrees F).

Besides dust, aerosols can be composed of sea salt, bits of soot and other pollution, or biological material. Bacteria, viruses, pollen, and plants, of both terrestrial and marine origin, also add to the mix of aerosols making the transcontinental voyage.

The researchers' analysis of winter storms in 2011 found that dust and biological aerosols tend to enhance precipitation-forming processes in the Sierra Nevada. In previous studies, researchers have found that pollution particles have the opposite effect, suppressing precipitation in the Sierra Nevada.

Ryan Sullivan of Carnegie Mellon University (seated) and Paul DeMott of Colorado State University aboard a Department of Energy G-1 aircraft during CalWater. Photo: Carnegie Mellon University

The bulk of the data collected during CalWater came from instruments known as aerosol time-of-flight mass spectrometers (ATOFMS), co-developed by Prather, and the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellite, which tracked the transport of aerosols through the atmosphere from continent to continent. Measurements in and around clouds utilized the Department of Energy's G-1 research aircraft, which carried other vital instruments, such as a specialized detector for the presence of dust ice nuclei feeding clouds and their presence in the collected residue of ice crystals. That portion of the study was led by co-author Paul DeMott, a senior research scientist at Colorado State University.

Using these tools, the researchers were able to determine that at least some of the dust and bioparticles detected by an aircraft-mounted ATOFMS unit during February 2011 flights through Sierra Nevada storm clouds were in the skies over Oman 10 days earlier, having likely originated in the Sahara a few days earlier. Along the journey, the Saharan dust and microbes mixed with other aerosols from deserts in China and Mongolia before wafting over the Pacific Ocean. Upon arrival in California, the aerosols effectively seeded the storm clouds and contributed to the efficiency of clouds in producing precipitation. Two other transportable ATOFMS units housed in trailers at Sugar Pine Dam just south of Interstate 80 in the Tahoe National Forest and other instruments made further measurements. They determined the chemical composition of aerosols at the end of their journey by looking at the particles present in precipitation samples that were collected during storms.

Study co-author Jessie Creamean at the Sierra Snow Lab in Norden, Calif
The researchers said it is a major challenge to sort out the relative impacts of meteorology, atmospheric dynamics, and the original sources of the cloud seeds on precipitation processes. They added that further studies like CalWater are necessary to further identify which aerosols are conducive to precipitation formation and which aerosols stifle its production.
"Due to the ubiquity of dust and co-lofted biological particles such as
bacteria in the atmosphere, these findings have global significance," the study concludes. "Furthermore, the implications for future water resources become even more substantial when considering the possible increase in [wind-blown] dust as a result of a warming climate and land use changes."

"Hydropower is an essential source of electricity in California providing, on average, 15 percent of our annual generation. More importantly, it provides electricity during hot summer days when it is needed the most," said Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller. "This state-funded study in cooperation with NOAA will help us understand how small particles in the air affect precipitation and hydropower generation. Additionally, this information will be useful in estimating the effects of our changing climate."

Besides Creamean, Suski, and Prather, study coauthors include Daniel Rosenfeld of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Alberto Cazorla of UCSD, Paul DeMott of Colorado State University, Ryan Sullivan of Carnegie Mellon University, Allen White, F. Martin Ralph of NOAA, Patrick Minnis of NASA's Langley Research Center, and Jennifer Comstock and Jason Tomlinson of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash.
Note to broadcast and cable producers: University of California, San Diego provides an on-campus satellite uplink facility for live or pre-recorded television interviews. Please phone or e-mail the media contact listed above to arrange an interview.

About Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California, San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest and most important centers for global science research and education in the world. Now in its second century of discovery, the scientific scope of the institution has grown to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system. Hundreds of research programs covering a wide range of scientific areas are under way today in 65 countries. The institution has a staff of about 1,400, and annual expenditures of approximately $170 million from federal, state and private sources. Scripps operates robotic networks, and one of the largest U.S. academic fleets with four oceanographic research ships and one research platform for worldwide exploration. Birch Aquarium at Scripps serves as the interpretive center of the institution and showcases Scripps research and a diverse array of marine life through exhibits and programming for more than 415,000 visitors each year. Learn more at scripps.ucsd.edu.

Robert Monroe | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsd.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Colorado River's connection with the ocean was a punctuated affair
16.11.2017 | University of Oregon

nachricht Researchers create largest, longest multiphysics earthquake simulation to date
14.11.2017 | Gauss Centre for Supercomputing

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>