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UAlbany Atmospheric Scientist Leads NASA Mission to Study the Effects of Aerosols on our Atmosphere

Fangqun Yu's research team has developed an advanced particle microphysics model to investigate an interactive climate system not currently well understood.

ALBANY, N.Y. (August 7, 2013) — University at Albany Atmospheric Sciences Research Center (ASRC) professor Fangqun Yu is leading a group of researchers to study aerosols in the atmosphere and their effects on chemical processes impacting air quality, radiation, atmospheric chemistry, and the Earth’s climate. The work will be a critical step forward in predicting future climate patterns on Earth.

The research is supported by a $500,000 grant from NASA Earth Science. NASA Earth Science is a NASA research program dedicated to developing better scientific understanding of the Earth’s system and its response to natural and human-induced changes for the purpose of improving the prediction of climate, weather, and natural hazards.

Yu and his team will investigate aerosol-radiation-chemistry-climate, an interactive system currently not well understood. The research group has already developed a state-of-the-art advanced particle microphysics (APM) model that enables one to predict key aerosol properties (size, composition, mixing state, etc.) important for their environmental and climatic impacts.

UAlbany atmospheric scientist Fangqun Yu

UAlbany atmospheric scientist Fangqun Yu

The team will use the model to study the effect of aerosols upon photolysis, or the chemical decomposition induced by light or other radiant energy. The model will also be used to better understand heterogeneous chemistry, a chemistry occurring on the surface of particles, and then upon aerosol-radiation-chemistry-climate interactions on a global scale.

How aerosol particle sizes affect UV actinic fluxes, tropospheric oxidation capacity, and heterogeneous chemistry is of great interest to the strategic research objectives of NASA’s Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling and Analysis Program, whose previous funding support aided Yu’s development of the APM model.

Actinic flux deals with the quantity of light available to molecules at a particular point in the atmosphere and which, on absorption, drives photochemical processes in the atmosphere. Tropospheric oxidation capacity is an important indicator of the cleansing capacity of the atmosphere, including the relative lifetime of important greenhouse gases.

These processes affect chemistry, air quality (including visibility, ozone, ultrafine particles, PM2.5, etc.), and aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions, which then impact climate.

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