A heavy concentration of aerosols -- tiny airborne particles of soot, dust, sulfuric acid and organic matter -- can affect rainfall, air quality and the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface, according to the researchers. Their initial findings from a seven-month study are featured in an article published this week (Sept. 24) in Nature magazine.
"To better understand the impact of aerosols in China is to better understand climate change worldwide," says Zhanqing Li, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science (CMPS) at Maryland and lead investigator of the project.
Li, who has conducted aerosol research in his native China for more than a decade, says this latest effort represents the largest-ever field experiment on climate research between the United States and China.
Previous studies have shown that different types of aerosols can exhibit quite different effects on climate, says Hongbin Chen, a professor in the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. "We wanted to gather a large amount of [new] data to improve on the numerical models already in place regarding aerosol-cloud-radiation interaction," he says.
China Monitoring Site. Click to see a larger graphic.The study, which began in May 2008, started with placing remote-sensing instruments in four locations in China (see illustration - left). The state-of-the-art instruments were deployed under the umbrella of the DoE's Atmospheric Radiation Measurements (ARM) program.
The researchers used lidar -- which sends pulsed laser signals skyward -- to measure the concentrations of aerosols and how far these often-industrial byproducts might drift in the atmosphere. Radar was used to determine the height and density of clouds in the region, while other sophisticated equipment measured solar and infrared radiation levels.
"The four locations gave us a good sampling of aerosol impact, including from human activity and from natural matter [dust] from the desert regions," says Warren Wiscombe, a NASA researcher who is chief scientist for the ARM program.
By coordinating these ground measurements with tracking data from NASA satellites, scientists also determined that aerosols could affect weather and climate across East Asia. Li says aerosols born in China can travel over the Pacific to the U.S. and are even suspected of having an impact on the Asian monsoon system.
Li and the ARM researchers used solar radiation measuring equipment to study the impact of aerosols in China.
The Nature article also details challenges the multinational group of scientists faced with Chinese government oversight. Part of the research occurred during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and the arrival of much of the scientific equipment was delayed by months, until it cleared Chinese customs.
But the Olympics added an interesting element to the project, says Wiscombe. "We were able to sample aerosols downwind of Beijing both before and during the event, when much of the industrial activity was curtailed in order to decrease air pollution," he says.Ultimately, Li says, aerosol research should give scientists a baseline to establish more exact definitions on the relationship between weather and climate patterns and large-scale industrializing. "China is fast becoming the world's leading manufacturer, so the region is a perfect test bed for understanding how human activity can affect climate," he says.
WHO: Zhanqing Li, professor of atmospheric and oceanic science at the University of Maryland with a joint appointment in the university's Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC).
WHAT: Li's research on the impact of regional aerosols in China is featured in the Sept. 24 issue of Nature magazine.
WHERE: The article is available in print (Vol. 461 pp 466-468), on Nature's website, or via PDF download at http://www.newsdesk.umd.edu/pdf/2009/ChinaAerosols.pdf
Lee Tune | Newswise Science News
Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....
A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...
Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision
Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
20.07.2017 | Information Technology
20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy