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Centre for Atmospheric Science

Aerosol processes from the microscopic to backyard scales

Impact of aerosol in highly polluted outflow from continental Europe
Photograph taken from the BAe 146 off the coast of Ireland near Mace Head, Galway. This image shows the impact of aerosol in highly polluted outflow from continental Europe.

While individual aerosol particles are typically smaller than the width of a human hair, their combined effects can be felt on a range of spatial scales extending from urban, through to regional and even global scales. It is upon such scales that public and political entities require knowledge of aerosol processes and their resultant impacts.

We attempt to unravel some of these complex processes by employing coordinated measurement campaigns that attempt to probe aerosol properties on broader spatial scales. These include multi-site ground based campaigns and employment of mobile platforms such as ships and aircraft. These measurements can then be utilised to improve aerosol processes in numerical models, which also range from fine scale resolutions through to regional and global scales.

Recent work has focused upon the spatial distribution of aerosol chemical composition and its impacts in Western Europe. This has included the ADIENT campaign, which utilised the FAAM BAe 146 research aircraft to probe the evolution and distribution of aerosol properties. These measurements extended from near source scales around London, through to the wider UK region and the vast scale of continental Europe. Current work is focusing upon how the aerosol chemical components evolve across this wide range of domains and what their impacts are upon the radiative balance of the climate system.

Complementary to this has been a major ground-based deployment of aerosol chemical composition and hygroscopicity measurements across Europe as part of the EUCAARI project. Our involvement included deployment both close to home in the Southern UK and also further afield in K-Puszta, Hungary.

A major theme of these measurements has been the significant contribution of ammonium nitrate to the aerosol burden in North-Western Europe, particularly during major pollution episodes.

Future work in this area includes airborne experiments to characterise gas and particle phase components around the UK in both day-time and night-time conditions.