Aerosol Studies

We study atmospheric aerosols using measurements from the FAAM aircraft and other ground and remote sensing observations.

Our aim is to characterise the physical and optical properties of aerosols and determine their influence on the atmospheric radiation budget, clouds, and on visibility and air quality. We make observations using the  FAAM BAe146 research aircraft and the Boundary Layer field site at Cardington. These are combined with satellite and other remote sensing or ground monitoring observations to challenge our understanding of aerosols and validate aerosol modelling capabilities. Much of our research is focused on major international experiments aimed at characterizing dominant aerosol species, such as mineral dust, biomass burning and aerosol mixtures associated with anthropogenic pollution. These measurement campaigns are often joint ventures with UK academic groups funded via NCAS.

The characterization of aerosols is important for several reasons. Aerosols interact with atmospheric radiation, perturbing the energy budget of the surface and atmosphere. Aerosols also have a major role in determining cloud micro-physical properties and can influence cloud optical thickness and precipitation rates. In addition, high concentrations of aerosols can degrade both atmospheric visibility and air quality. Thus aerosols are important in both numerical weather prediction and climate change projections. The high complexity and variability of aerosols also pose major challenges due to the range of aerosol sources and the short residence time of aerosols in the atmosphere. Our goal is to improve fundamental scientific understanding of aerosol so that aerosol processes and aerosol properties can be better represented within the Met Office's weather and climate models.

Key Aims

  • To measure the physical and optical properties of atmospheric aerosols
  • To determine the impact of aerosols on atmospheric radiation and visibility
  • To investigate the influence of aerosols on cloud microphysics
  • To support and validate the development of aerosol modelling within the Met Office and UK academic community
  • To develop state-of-the-art instrumentation for the measurement and remote sensing of aerosol

Current Projects

  • DABEX - Saharan mineral dust and west African biomass burning.
  • GERBILS - Saharan mineral dust and its impact on the long-wave radiation budget.
  • EUCAARI - European pollution.
  • VISURB - UK pollution and its impact on visibility.
  • EM25 - UK pollution within the M25 region.

Last updated: 2 December 2011