What's Up with Aerosols?
(Left to right) Drs. Ruby Leung from PNNL, Larry Smarr from UCSD, and Institute co-director Charlette Geffen from PNNL discuss computational science tools that can aid climate science collaborations.
Aerosols, or tiny particles in the atmosphere, are among the most important phenomena affecting climate change–yet among the least understood. Science has just begun to uncover the secrets of the complex interactions between aerosols and clouds, like how they absorb and reflect sunlight over land and oceans. Still, measuring and modeling aerosol interactions in the earth system is a vast challenge. So vast, in fact, that it requires an intense research collaboration–sort of a scientific "all-hands-on-deck" endeavor–to peel back the inner workings of aerosols and their role in climate change.
The Aerosol Chemistry and Climate Institute is tackling this challenge. The Institute, formed in August 2008, combines the considerable forces of two of the nation's premier research institutions: the University of California at San Diego and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory in Richland, Washington. Scientists, faculty, and students collaborate at both locations, carrying out research and development projects for government and commercial customers. The result: More precise predictions of climate change and its effects. Ultimately, this means better information for decision makers who manage energy demands and natural resources.
The Institute creates a powerful scientific collaboration that yields more than the sum of the partners' unique capabilities. It bridges two of the most important fields in climate science: atmospheric science and fundamental molecular science and chemistry. Integrating these fields will yield new insights and innovative concepts in advanced instrumentation, measurement, and modeling.
The Institute also creates more hands-on research opportunities for graduate students. This prepares the next generation of scientists to discover new solutions to one of the most complex and compelling problems on Earth–energy-driven global change.