New Horizons in Science

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Probing nanoparticles for answers to big climate questions

Topic: Atmospheric Chemistry
Bubbles in the dark
Navit Dilmen
Sunday, November 3, 2013 -
2:30pm to 3:15pm
Century Ballroom A

For years, tiny organic particles in the air we breath have bedeviled climate modelers. Some of these particles are byproducts of human activity; others can be traced to oxidized gas molecules emitted by trees. These particles play a significant role in climate and have the remarkable habit of trapping toxic pollutants and transporting them from industrial regions to the pristine arctic. So far, models have been able to explain at best one-tenth of the organics actually measured in the atmosphere. Such large inaccuracies throw wrenches into attempts to accurately represent cloud formation and other processes in climate models. Alla Zelenyuk has tackled this discrepancy by building a system, called SPLAT, that measures many of the key properties of a single nanoparticle all at once. Most recently, she's been able to combine laboratory and field findings to remove the troubling discrepancy between data and models in a major data set from Mexico City.


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