TEMPE, Ariz. Arizona State University researchers have made a breakthrough in understanding the effect on climate change of a key component of urban pollution. The discovery could lead to more accurate forecasting of possible global-warming activity, say Peter Crozier and James Anderson.
Crozier is an associate professor in ASU's School of Materials, which is jointly administered by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering. Anderson is a senior research scientist in the engineering school's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
As a result of their studies of aerosols in the atmosphere, they assert that some measures used in atmospheric science are oversimplified and overlook important factors that relate to climatic warming and cooling.
The research findings are detailed in the Aug. 8 issue of Science magazine, in the article "Brown Carbon Spheres in East Asian Outflow and Their Optical Properties," co-authored by Crozier, Anderson and Duncan Alexander, a former postdoctoral fellow at ASU in the area of electron microscopy, and the paper's lead author.
So-called brown carbons a nanoscale atmospheric aerosol species are largely being ignored in broad-ranging climate computer models, Crozier and Anderson say.
Studies of the greenhouse effect that contribute directly to climate change have focused on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. But there are other components in the atmosphere that can contribute to warming or cooling including carbonaceous and sulfate particles from combustion of fossil fuels and biomass, salts from oceans and dust from deserts. Brown carbons from combustion processes are the least understood of these aerosol components.
The parameter typically used to measure degrees of warming is radiative forcing, which is the difference in the incoming energy from sunlight and outgoing energy from heat and reflected sun
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Arizona State University