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Unexpected Long-Range Smoke Transport and Atmospheric Influence from Africa to the Caribbean


A unique subset of water-attracting aerosol particles in the atmosphere can serve as starting points for clouds to form, or cloud condensation nuclei. Understanding the properties of these aerosols is key to learning more about the effect of clouds on radiative forcing, which is known to be an uncertainty in predicting temperature changes with climate change. These processes are especially important to study over the oceans, because although most of Earth is covered by marine areas, aerosol-cloud interactions are understudied in those regions. A team of researchers worked to link aerosol source, composition, and associated water processes, including Paquita Zuidema of the University of Miami, who was supported by the Climate Program Office’s Climate Variability & Predictability (CVP) Program. Though the majority of previous studies were done during the summer, these results showed unexpected periods of long-range transport of primarily smoke aerosol particles, along with dust, from Africa to Barbados. Recent work in the past decade has identified Barbados as a dust receptor site, but the role of smoke has not been the focus of research on atmosphere and cloud processes. This study, published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, demonstrates the importance of smoke in cloud formation over the Caribbean region, and provides a basis for conducting more research on the link between smoke aerosols and cloud formation in other marine areas.

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