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Climate Change Solutions: Need to Treat Aerosols Together with Greenhouse Gases

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Monday, September 14, 2009

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Manvendra Dubey
Scientist IV
Earth Systems Observations
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos, NM

The observed warming over the industrial era has resulted from radiative forcing from increases in greenhouse gases and air pollution by humankind. Controlling both of these is at the forefront of public policy to protect our health and our climate system. My talk will elucidate the role of atmospheric aerosols, small particles that scatter and/or absorb solar radiation, influence clouds, ice albedo and the hydrological cycle, on climate. Aerosols have a multitude of sources, are short lived but are transported to remote regions and undergo physical and chemical transformations, complicating their treatments in climate models. For example sulfate aerosols scatter sunlight to cool climate while soot absorbs sunlight to warm climate, and the non-linear interactions determine the effect of mixed sulfate-soot aerosols. I will summarize results of aerosol optical and chemical properties made with modern state-of-the art instrumentation made by us in several field campaigns over a range of environments that include (1) Mexico City in March 2006, (2) Houston in August 2006 (2) The Arctic in April 2008 and (3) Jeju Island, South Korea in September 2008. Our data spans both fresh pollution from megacities and long-range transport of aerosols into pristine remote regions. I plan to convey the message that our understanding of aerosols is maturing, and they should be an important near-term consideration, particularly for developing countries, in the United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Suggested Reading Material

Smoke and Climate Change, J. Quaas, Perspectives, Science, 325, 153, 10 July 2009 and references cited therein.

Host Claudio Mazzoleni (

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