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Group Section What are aerosols?

Aerosols are tiny particles present in the atmosphere. There are many different types of particle including soot, sulphuric acid and ammonium sulphate droplets, organic droplets, mineral dust, sea-salt and volcanic ash. Aerosols come from both natural (e.g. volcanoes, ocean algae, forest fires, deserts) and man-made sources (e.g. fossil fuel burning, biomass burning, land use change).

Aerosols can affect climate since they can scatter and absorb solar radiation and, in some cases, infra-red radiation emitted by the Earth. This is known as the "direct" effect of aerosols on climate. Additionally, aerosols can alter the microphysical properties of clouds, making them brighter or longer lasting. This "indirect" effect can also alter climate. Aerosols can also provide sites for heterogeneous chemical reactions in the atmosphere.

Currently, our understanding of past climate change and our ability to predict future climate change is hampered by our lack of understanding of aerosol composition and radiative impact. The large relative uncertainty in our calculations of radiative forcing due to aerosols, compared with other climate forcing mechanisms, is shown in the figure below (IPCC 2001 Summary for Policymakers).
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What do we do?

The Aerosol Group here in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading studies the chemical and optical properties of different aerosol types and the radiative and climatic impact of aerosols. We use sophisticated radiative transfer models and the Reading Intermediate General Circulation Model.

We are also interested in the the structure of the tropopause.

Our research is closely linked to that of the Radiation group, with whom we collaborate extensively.

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