Aerosols

This image shows the emission and transport of dust and other aerosols to the Southern Ocean on Dec. 30, 2006. Dust is represented with orange to red colors, sea salt with blue, organic and black carbon with green to yellow, and sulfates with brown to white.

Credit: William M. Putman and Arlindo M. da Silva (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

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Light rain after a dry spell often produces a distinctive earthy scent called petrichor that is associated with plant oils and bacteria products. How these chemicals get into the air has been unclear, but new research suggests that the mechanism may come from the rain itself. When water falls on a porous surface like soil, tiny air bubbles get trapped beneath the drop. These bubbles rise rapidly due to buoyancy and, upon reaching the surface, burst and release tiny droplets known as aerosols. Depending on the surface properties and the drop’s impact speed, a single drop can produce a cloud of aerosol droplets. The research team is now investigating how readily bacteria or pathogens in the soil can spread through this mechanism. Other human-focused research has already shown that these tiny aerosol droplets can persist in the air for remarkably long periods and may help spread diseases. (Video credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology; research credit: Y. Joung and C. Buie; submitted by Daniel B and entropy-perturbation)

Moonrise in Haze

The photo above shows a moonrise sequence above an oil tanker in Casco Bay, Maine, as observed on September 18, 2013.

The Moon was one day shy of being a full Harvest Moon. Initially, only a faint outline of the lunar disk can be observed since the Moon is rising through a dense layer of haze. When the Moon (or Sun) is close to the horizon the increase of path length acts to redden the moonlight that reaches our eyes.

However, if enough haze particles or other aerosols are available the moonlight may be completely extinguished. On this evening the Moon was invisible until it was approximately 10 degrees above the horizon. Note that the Moon is moving through the Belt of Venus (or anti-twilight arch) – the pink band of scattered sunlight that sits atop the rising Earth’s shadow. - Sherry Bateman, John Stetson

Portrait of Global Aerosols

Aerosols, clouds of microscopic particles suspended in air, are key players in the health of our atmosphere and climate. They also happen to make really pretty sunsets. Aerosols can scatter sunlight back into space, which can cool the planet, or seed dangerous chemical reactions like those that destroy ozone. Understanding how different types of aerosols move and react in our atmosphere is crucial to smart climate science.

The image above is a NASA supercomputer simulation of different aerosols moving around Earth. It sort of looks like someone painted Earth and then swirled the colors around before they dried, doesn’t it?

Dust is red (remember that half the Amazon gets its nutrients from African aerosols!), smoke from fires is green, volcanic eruptions are white, and sea salt is blue.

See the beautiful hi-res version of the image here. Phil Plait has more explanation at Bad Astronomy (now at Slate!)

If you loved this visualization, revisit NASA’s Van Gogh-esque Perpetual Ocean current simulation. Beautiful stuff. 

(via NASA)

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It was just another ugly, polluted day in Los Angeles, with total chemcover morning till night.  See the faint chemhalo around the morning sun?  I can tell when the clouds are man made.  The sun always shines through in this same way and the sky looks like someone scribbled over it with a graphite pencil.  It looks like heavy metal particles to me, although cleverly disguised as clouds.  The Weather Space also accurately reported aerosol levels in the red for Southern California today.  The stuff was so thick you couldn’t even see the sprayers at work.  It is almost certain we’ll get a good dousing of heavy metals at tomorrow’s chemtrail protest.  Hope to see you all there!

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The motions of Earth’s atmosphere move more than just air and moisture. As seen in this animation built from NASA satellite data, the atmosphere also transports large amounts of small solid particles, or aerosols, such as dust. Each year the wind carries millions of tons of Saharan dust across the Atlantic, depositing much of it in the Amazon basin. This provides much needed nutrients like phosphorus to plants and animals in the Amazon; check out this video from the Brain Scoop to see what happens in areas that don’t receive these nutrients. Dust is only one of many sources for atmospheric aerosols, though. Sea salt, volcanic eruptions, and pollution are others. All of these aerosols serve as potential nucleation sites for raindrops or snowflakes, and their transport all around the globe by atmospheric winds means that seemingly local effects–like a regional drought or increased pollution in developing countries–can have global effects. (Video credit: NASA Goddard; submitted by entropy-perturbation)

When a volcano erupts, the concentration of aerosols in the stratosphere increases. Aerosols play an important role in Earth’s climate, reflecting or absorbing sunlight.

Canada’s instrument OSIRIS has measured the impact of nine volcanic eruptions since the beginning of its mission in 2001.

More info here.
Photo: NASA / Aqua – MODIS

Credit: Canadian Space Agency’s Facebook Account

Climate change is correctly regarded as one of the greatest threats to humanity in the 21st century and with many of the world’s governments reluctant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions it looks unlikely that we will be able to stop global temperature rises over the coming decades by reduction and substitution alone.

Geoengineering may offer another route to preventing excessive global temperature rise; geoengineering is a branch of engineering that intentionally manipulates earth system processes. A promising technique known as stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) would reflect incoming solar radiation thereby lowering surface temperatures, in other words it would create global dimming to counter balance global warming.

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