In a study led by the University of Leeds, scientists have solved one of the most long-standing challenges in atmospheric science: to understand how particles are formed in the atmosphere.
The lead scientist on the study, Professor Ken Carslaw, from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, said: “This is a major milestone in our understanding of the atmosphere. The CERN experiment is unique, and it has produced data that seemed completely out of reach just five years ago.”
Clouds in the atmosphere consist of tiny droplets, which form when water condenses around small particles in the atmosphere called ‘aerosols’.
Understanding how aerosols are formed is therefore vital for understanding cloud formation — a process that has, until now, been an uncertain quantity in climate models, introducing problems for climate change projections.
For over 30 years, scientists have been able to build computer simulations of atmospheric gases based on measurements of chemical reaction rates made in a laboratory. This capability has been essential to our current understanding of the atmosphere, including the destruction of the ozone layer.
Until now, the same level of understanding has not been possible for aerosol particles in the atmosphere because of the enormous challenges involved in reliably measuring particle formation in a laboratory.
The CLOUD experiment can measure the ‘nucleation’ of new atmospheric particles – that is, when certain molecules in the atmosphere cluster together and grow to form new particles – in a specially designed chamber under extremely well controlled environmental conditions. Nucleation is important because, by current estimates, about half of all cloud droplets are formed on aerosol particles that were created in this way.
Professor Carslaw concludes: “These new results will give us much more confidence in how particles and clouds are handled in global climate models.”
September ozone hole has shrunk by 4 million square kilometers since 2000.
Scientists at MIT and elsewhere have identified the “first fingerprints of healing” of the Antarctic ozone layer, published today in the journal Science.
The team found that the September ozone hole has shrunk by more than 4 million square kilometers — about half the area of the contiguous United States — since 2000, when ozone depletion was at its peak. The team also showed for the first time that this recovery has slowed somewhat at times, due to the effects of volcanic eruptions from year to year. Overall, however, the ozone hole appears to be on a healing path.
The authors used “fingerprints” of the ozone changes with season and altitude to attribute the ozone’s recovery to the continuing decline of atmospheric chlorine originating from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These chemical compounds were once emitted by dry cleaning processes, old refrigerators, and aerosols such as hairspray. In 1987, virtually every country in the world signed on to the Montreal Protocol in a concerted effort to ban the use of CFCs and repair the ozone hole.
“We can now be confident that the things we’ve done have put the planet on a path to heal,” says lead author Susan Solomon, the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science at MIT. “Which is pretty good for us, isn’t it? Aren’t we amazing humans, that we did something that created a situation that we decided collectively, as a world, ‘Let’s get rid of these molecules’? We got rid of them, and now we’re seeing the planet respond.”
The University of Leeds (informally Leeds University, or simply Leeds) is a British Redbrick university located in the city of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England.
Originally named the Yorkshire College of Science and later simply the Yorkshire College, it incorporated the Leeds School of Medicine and became part of the federal Victoria University alongside Owens College (which eventually became the University of Manchester) and University College Liverpool (which became the University of Liverpool). In 1904, a royal charter was granted to the University of Leeds by King Edward VII.
Leeds has around 33,600 students, the eighth-highest number of any university in the UK. From 2006 to present, the university has consistently been ranked second in the United Kingdom for the number of applications received, second only to the University of Manchester. Leeds had a total income of £547.3 million in 2010/11, of which £124 million was from research grants and contracts. The university has financial endowments of £42.3 million (2008–09), ranking outside the top ten British universities by financial endowment.
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University of Leeds research articles from Innovation Toronto
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