Climate Change and Air Quality

How do ocean currents affect cloud formation?

The currents off the coast of California bring nutrients to the coastal zone, which cause rapid plant and animal growth (including fish). The growth emits compounds into the atmosphere.These nano-particles, likely formed from the gases emitted by the ocean, grow in the atmosphere to become what are called cloud condensation nuclei — the seed particles that can grow into cloud droplets and eventually rain. Anthony Wexler, director of the Air Quality Research Center, measures new particle formation along the coast of California. His research shows the relationship among ocean currents, nutrient supply to the coastal zone, biological productivity, biogenic emissions, chemical reactions in the atmosphere, formation of new particles and cloud properties.


How will climate change influence weather along the coast and the health of California marine ecosystems?

Constantly changing features of the coastal environment can have profound impacts on the exchanges between the atmosphere and ocean of many climatically important trace gases, such as carbon dioxide, dimethylsulfide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Ian Faloona, professor of land, air, and water resources,is interested in monitoring such gases along the coast to study the connections between changes in their amounts and the health of the California coastal ecosystem, regional air quality, and local weather. He investigates air chemistry in many other environments and searches for possible atmospheric feedbacks between the biosphere and the climate system.


Will climate change impact how frequently the air is polluted?

Climate change will modify the strength and frequency of weather phenomena, such as high pressure systems, which are associated with air pollution. To understand the variation of weather patterns influenced by changing climate, Shu-Hua Chen, professor of land, air, and water resources, studies mesoscale meteorology and the impact of climate change on regional air quality in California. She uses data from severe weather and regional climate to predict pollutant transport. Chen uses the data to model stagnant atmospheric conditions over California’s Central Valley and the Los Angeles basin.


How do climate change models use weather data with agriculture data?

Recent evidence of the influence of human activity on the climate system has led to increased research attention on the hydrologic cycle as an important focus for the study of climate change. The analysis of long term weather observations and the use of sophisticated global and regional weather forecast models provide information about how exchanges of moisture and heat between the atmosphere and the earth’s surface affect climate. Bryan Weare, professor of land, air, and water resources, is studying the effects of irrigation changes and other factors on California climate.


How can academic faculty collaborate with policymakers to lower greenhouse gas emissions?

Daniel Sperling, founding director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, has testified numerous times to Congress, State Legislature, and government agencies to offer critical examinations of future automotive technologies and fuels. Sperling coauthored the low-carbon fuel standard for California. His research unit that examines the future potentials of biofuels and alternative vehicle technologies that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


How do particulate matter emissions in Asia affect air quality in California?

Dust from as far away as the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts of China and Mongolia and man-made pollution from Asian cities reaches Northern California.The types of particulate matter (PM) that travel around the globe include soil dust, sulfate, soot, and trace metals from coal burning, diesel, and other fossil fuel combustion. Steve Cliff, researcher in applied science, is particularly interested in how this trans-Pacific PM affects regional climate in California and how increasing PM emissions in Asia will affect air quality in the U.S.


How do we learn about interactions between forest canopies and the atmosphere?

One way to learn is through the work of Kyaw Tha Paw U, professor of land, air, and water resources. Paw U participates in the Wind River Canopy Crane Research Facility. The tower crane carries researchers 220 feet into the forest canopy to measure how trees absorb carbon dioxide, and how moisture evaporating from the forest helps cool the planet.


Is visibility in remote areas affected by air pollution and climate change?

Climate change may increase the concentration of visibility-reducing particles in remote locations by affecting the chemistry and transport patterns of the particles. Lowell Ashbaugh, researcher emeritus at the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory, tracked trends in visibility to understand in how various climate changes may affect our interpretation and analysis of visibility trends, and how they may impact regulatory decisions to improve visibility in remote national parks and wilderness areas across the nation.

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