How Do Tiny Aerosol Particles Like Dust And Sea Salt Change Cloud Formation?


New NSF-funded research led by Texas A&M’s Yue Zhang will examine aerosol and cloud interactions, which have major implications for climate models and predictions.

Aerosols are liquid droplets and fine solid particles suspended in the atmosphere. Most aerosols consist of mineral dust and sea salt, but aerosols can also consist of other particles, such as volcanic ash, sulfate, nitrate and organic carbon.

But these tiny particles can have a significant impact. Atmospheric scientists have unanswered questions about aerosols and how they affect the formation of clouds and storms, which can impact climate modeling and understanding of future climate change. Do different types of aerosols promote or inhibit the formation of clouds, and therefore lead to different precipitation? And how do climate models need to account for aerosols? A new National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded research project led by Texas A&M University’s Yue Zhang is tackling these questions with a team of experts.

“This research will improve the understanding of how aerosols impact cloud formation and cloud properties, and we will contribute to reducing the uncertainties in predicting future climate,” said Zhang, an assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences in the College of Geosciences.

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