BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Nature Publication Reports Pollution Impacts on Clouds and Precipitation
Published: November 13, 2011
Posted: December 20, 2011

Using a 10-year set of extensive measurements made at the Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility in the U.S. Southern Great Plains, researchers found unprecedented strong evidence that aerosols drastically alter clouds and precipitation. Aerosols— tiny particles in the air, like dust or soot—affect clouds and precipitation through different mechanisms. Aerosols can serve as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) that impact cloud microphysics and precipitation processes, or they can directly modulate radiative and latent energy, changing the atmospheric stability dynamics and thermodynamics that dictate cloud development. The interplay of these effects can either suppress or foster cloud and precipitation processes, depending on the specific circumstances. This study showed that increased aerosol concentrations increased the cloud top height and thickness—most significantly in the summer by up to a factor of 2—for clouds with a warm base (above 15°C) and mixed-phase tops (below -4°C). Precipitation frequency increased with aerosols for deep clouds with high water content and decreased for clouds with little water. The observational findings are successfully reproduced with a state-of-the-art cloud-resolving model demonstrating that these aerosol processes are well represented in the model.

Reference: Li., Z., F. Niu, J. Fan, Y. Liu, D. Rosenfeld, Y. Ding. 2011. "Long-Term Impacts of Aerosols on the Vertical Development of Clouds and Precipitation," Nature Geoscience 4, 888-94. DOI:10.1038/ngeo1313. (Reference link)

Contact: Wanda Ferrell, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0043, Rickey Petty, SC-23.1, (301) 903-5548, Ashley Williamson, SC-23.1, (301) 903-3120
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling
  • Research Area: Atmospheric System Research
  • Facility: DOE ARM User Facility

Division: SC-33.1 Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Mar 23, 2021
Molecular Connections from Plants to Fungi to Ants
Lipids transfer energy and serve as an inter-kingdom communication tool in leaf-cutter ants&rsqu [more...]

Mar 19, 2021
Microbes Use Ancient Metabolism to Cycle Phosphorus
Microbial cycling of phosphorus through reduction-oxidation reactions is older and more widespre [more...]

Feb 22, 2021
Warming Soil Means Stronger Microbe Networks
Soil warming leads to more complex, larger, and more connected networks of microbes in those soi [more...]

Jan 27, 2021
Labeling the Thale Cress Metabolites
New data pipeline identifies metabolites following heavy isotope labeling.

Analysis [more...]

Aug 31, 2020
Novel Bacterial Clade Reveals Origin of Form I Rubisco
Objectives

  • All plant biomass is sourced from the carbon-fixing enzyme Rub [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)