To identify and quantify the uncertainties in radiative forcing, climate change and the hydrological cycle due to changes in tropospheric and strastospheric aerosols and other mechanisms.
How do we do this?
The Aerosol Group here in the Department of Meteorology of the University of Reading studies the chemical and optical properties of different aerosol types and the radiative and climatic impact of aerosols. We are involved in both the analysis of observations of real aerosol and in climate modelling.
What are aerosols?
Aerosols are tiny particles or droplets of liquid present in the atmosphere. There are many different types of particle including soot, sulphuric acid and ammonium sulphate droplets, organic droplets, mineral dust, sea-salt and volcanic ash. Aerosols come from both natural (e.g. volcanoes, ocean algae, forest fires, deserts) and man-made sources (e.g. fossil fuel burning, biomass burning, land use change).
Why are they important for climate?
Aerosols can affect climate since they can scatter and absorb solar radiation and, in some cases, infra-red radiation emitted by the Earth. This is known as the “direct” effect of aerosols on climate. Additionally, aerosols can alter the microphysical properties of clouds, making them brighter or longer lasting. This “indirect” effect can also alter climate. Aerosols can also provide sites for heterogeneous chemical reactions in the atmosphere. Aerosols are also impacted by changes in climate. For example, changes to wind patterns may change desert dust and sea salt emissions, as well as the length of time they remain in the atmosphere.