Researchers unveil effects of dust particles on cloud properties

phys.org | 3/25/2019 | Staff
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The glacier Brøggerbreen and its surroundings in July 2016 which show the characteristics of glacial outwash sediments obtained in Svalbard. Credit: Yutaka Tobo, Ph.D., the National Institute of Polar Research, Japan.

An international team led by Japanese scientists has generated significant findings that highlight the impact of high-latitude dust on the conversion of water droplets in clouds into ice—or glaciation—within low-level clouds in the Arctic region. These results contribute to a better understanding of factors at the land surface and how they affect cloud formations. The research findings also add to a better understanding of how climate is affected by clouds, which are increasingly considered to be among the most important, yet most complex, regulators of the global climate. Depending on the conditions, clouds either enhance warming or cool the climate by trapping heat or reflecting sunlight back into space, respectively.

Study - Nature - Geoscience - March

The study was published in Nature Geoscience on March 25, 2019.

Clouds play one of the most important roles in the atmospheric system. They are key players in maintaining the radiation balance of the Earth's atmosphere and are also involved in maintaining the Earth's energy equilibrium. They are made up of particles such as ice crystals and/or droplets that in turn mediate the atmosphere's radiation balance and the maintenance of the Earth's energy equilibrium. When chilled below 0oC, water molecules start forming ice crystals wherever there are minerals or other solids suspended in the water—what are known as nucleation sites. Completely pure water that has no nucleation sites can be chilled well below the usual freezing point and yet remain a liquid—a process called supercooling. Clouds can also be affected by dust particles as they serve as ice nucleating particles (INPs) and cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) allowing ice and liquid droplet formation. In particular, mixed-phase clouds that are made up of water...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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