Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers turn to the ocean to help unravel the mysteries of cloud formation

10.06.2015

In a study published today in ACS Central Science, a research team led by University of Wisconsin-Madison chemistry professor Timothy Bertram peels back the mysteries of the structures of tiny aerosol particles at the surface of the ocean.

The work shows how the particles' chemical composition influences their abilities to take in moisture from the air, which indicates whether the particle will help to form a cloud -- a key to many basic problems in climate prediction.


In order to investigate sea spray particles formed at the ocean-air boundary in nature, researchers used a 33-meter-long wave channel to replicate waves found in nature. They filled the wave channel, which is located at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, with seawater from the ocean.

Courtesy of Christina McCluskey

To understand the Earth's climate, scientists must consider and measure both human-made environmental pollutants and naturally occurring processes that influence how much energy the planet absorbs from the sun or radiates back into space. One naturally occurring process that plays a big role in this delicate balance is the formation of clouds.

Clouds are made of tiny droplets of water. It has long been known that the droplets that make up clouds form around tiny nuclei -- grains of dust, salt or even microbial life.

Clouds help reflect solar energy back to space, but the process for a particle to seed a cloud can change depending on the natural setting. A particle must take up water from its surrounding environment in order to seed a cloud, but the particle's chemical composition may be very uniform or very diverse, affecting its ability to do so.

Bertram's group focuses on areas where chemistry significantly affects climate or the environment. And because oceans cover more than 70 percent of the Earth's surface, the UW-Madison researcher has focused on the ocean surface in order to better understand an important piece of the larger climate picture.

'While the emission of particulates from the ocean isn't nearly as strong as that from trucks, the majority of the Earth's surface is not covered by trucks,' Bertram says. 'The ocean may be a diffuse source (of these particles), but it's a very important source.'

In their new work, Bertram and colleagues' investigation began in a laboratory-based wave channel, which allowed them to replicate the types of sea spray aerosol particles found near ocean waves. They also studied particles from the actual ocean-air boundary. By mimicking ocean waves and sea spray in the wave channel, the researchers could gain insight into the structures and cloud-formation potential of particles in the open ocean.

The team then developed a new method that categorizes a diverse population of aerosol particles based on their likelihood of taking up water from the surrounding environment and forming a cloud. Previous approaches yielded one number to assess sea spray aerosol particles' ability to form clouds. The new method, however, provides a more precise measure by indicating the percentages of particles in each category, thus more properly accounting for particle-to-particle variability in cloud formation.

'The advancement is that this is general,' Bertram says. 'It's a framework people can use broadly to look at this question of the diversity of particulates and how they impact cloud formation.'

###

Collaborators include other researchers affiliated with the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment at the University of California, San Diego; the University of Iowa; the Scripps Institution of Oceanography; and the University of California, Davis, as well as a researcher from NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. Steven Schill, a graduate student in the Bertram group, is first author on the new study.

The National Science Foundation supported the work through the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment.

Contact:

Timothy Bertram
tbertram@chem.wisc.edu
608-890-3422

Libby Dowdall
ldowdall@chem.wisc.edu
608-265-9814

http://www.wisc.edu 

Timothy Bertram | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Ten-year anniversary of the Neumayer Station III
18.01.2019 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht The pace at which the world’s permafrost soils are warming
16.01.2019 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Ten-year anniversary of the Neumayer Station III

The scientific and political community alike stress the importance of German Antarctic research

Joint Press Release from the BMBF and AWI

The Antarctic is a frigid continent south of the Antarctic Circle, where researchers are the only inhabitants. Despite the hostile conditions, here the Alfred...

Im Focus: Ultra ultrasound to transform new tech

World first experiments on sensor that may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles

The new sensor - capable of detecting vibrations of living cells - may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles.

Im Focus: Flying Optical Cats for Quantum Communication

Dead and alive at the same time? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have implemented Erwin Schrödinger’s paradoxical gedanken experiment employing an entangled atom-light state.

In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a thought experiment designed to capture the paradoxical nature of quantum physics. The crucial element of this gedanken...

Im Focus: Nanocellulose for novel implants: Ears from the 3D-printer

Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.

It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:

Im Focus: Elucidating the Atomic Mechanism of Superlubricity

The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.

One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

11th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Aachen, 3-4 April 2019

14.01.2019 | Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Additive manufacturing reflects fundamental metallurgical principles to create materials

18.01.2019 | Materials Sciences

How molecules teeter in a laser field

18.01.2019 | Life Sciences

The cytoskeleton of neurons has been found to be involved in Alzheimer's disease

18.01.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>