Scientists in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have won a grant to study prevailing mysteries about how chemistry influences climate and atmospheric processes.
The $1.5 million National Science Foundation award forms the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE), which aims to determine how the chemical composition of aerosol particles and the chemical reactions occurring at their surface impact Earth's climate. Until now, studies focused on determining the impact of aerosol chemical processes on climate have been conducted on either highly simplified model systems in the laboratory, making extension to real-world conditions challenging, or under overly complex atmospheric conditions, making deduction of the underlying driving mechanisms cloudy. As a result, chemical processes associated with aerosol particles are poorly constrained in most computer models used for climate predictions.
"We're going to understand how real systems behave and how chemistry affects climate," said the center's principal investigator Kim Prather, an atmospheric chemistry professor who holds appointments in the UCSD Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry as well as at Scripps Oceanography. This knowledge will be used to dramatically improve the representation of aerosol chemical mechanisms in global climate models, and how they impact climate processes such as cloud formation, cloud lifetime, precipitation patterns and direct aerosol absorption.
The center is designed to bring together experts in all areas of chemistry, with physical, chemical and biological oceanographers with the intent of determining how chemical processes impact climate from the molecular scale all the way to the global scale.
"We're understanding at a fundamental level when chemistry is important," said Prather.
To overcome hurdles to observation, the award, which in
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University of California -- San Diego