Department of Atmospheric Sciences | University of Illinois
Atmospheric Sciences | RESEARCH

Atmospheric gases, particles, and chemistry

The aerosol structure and chemical composition of the atmosphere continually change due to natural events such as volcanic eruptions and human activities including fossil fuel burning.  Changes in composition have important consequences on air quality, the circulations in the atmosphere, and future climate. The development of the ozone hole over Antarctica, trends in long-lived greenhouse gases, changes in the concentrations of both stratospheric and tropospheric ozone, and acidic deposition have the potential to cause large and possibly severe consequences to human activities. Studies suggest that dust storms emerging from deserts such as the Sahara may impact the circulations within hurricanes, while human generated aerosol may have even greater impacts, changing the microstructure of, and precipitation from clouds. The challenge facing atmospheric scientists is to understand these natural and anthropogenic effects, and to quantify their magnitude. This challenge is of utmost importance in this century as human influences alter our atmosphere and climate.

Students working on atmospheric composition and chemistry issues are looking at a variety of important questions relating to how natural events and human activities are affecting the gases and particles in the atmosphere. For example, students are studying the effects of potential climate change on air quality in North America and Asia, the effects of emissions from aviation on atmospheric chemistry, and resulting potential effects on climate, and potential effects of newly introduced industrially-produced chemicals on air quality and stratospheric ozone. A new research effort is aimed at understanding the effects of dust storms in China on Asian air quality and nutrient deposition in the ocean, the interactions of this dust with urban and biomass burning air pollutants, and the resulting effects on Asia and on long-range transport of the pollutants. If you become involved in this cutting edge research, you may have the opportunity to work on exciting field programs or use Global models of chemistry-transport-climate processes such as MOZART or regional models such as CMAQ in your research.

Want to learn more? See these faculty websites:

Larry Di Girolamo Greg McFarquhar Steve Nesbitt
Bob Rauber Nicole Riemer Don Wuebbles