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New grant explores formation of cloud-generating particles

The study, using U.S. Department of Energy data, will help improve climate forecasting models.

Gannet Hallar, professor of Atmospheric Sciences, is the principal investigator on a new research project using U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) measurements to learn about how some of the cloud-forming aerosol particles in the atmosphere form. The study, which includes co-investigators from SUNY Albany, the University of Granada and the University of Colorado, is funded by a $720,000 grant from the DOE.

Before there are clouds, there are cloud condensation nuclei. These are microscopic-scale particles around which water can condense, eventually leading to fluffy—or stormy—clouds. Some cloud condensation nuclei come from dust or smoke in the air, but some form into particles from atmospheric gases. The magnitude of this new particle formation and its influence on cloud formation and climate patterns, however, isn’t very well understood.

Hallar and her colleagues will use data from the DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement facility to answer questions about how the formation of new particles occurs in different environments, how new particle formation contributes to cloud condensation and how climate models can best represent that contribution. The study, which begins on August 1, 2022, is one of 22 projects recently awarded a total of $14 million by the DOE to improve climate change modeling and predictions. Read about the other awarded projects here.

In May 2022, Hallar was named as co-chair of the Aerosol Measurement Science Group, a group of scientists providing guidance to the DOE and the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement facility to improve aerosol measurements and data usability.