Haze near Mexico City photographed from the NSF/NCAR C-130 aircraft in spring, 2006.
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Image Courtesy of Peter DeCarlo

Aerosols in the Atmosphere: They Are the Same All Around the World
News story originally written on December 10, 2009

It's no secret that the emissions leaving a car tailpipe or factory smokestack affect climate and air quality. But until now, scientists haven't understood where the emissions go or what happens to them in the atmosphere. A group of more than 60 scientists combined their research from around the world to learn more about what happens to aerosols floating through the skies.

Particles from pollution have an effect on cloud formation and rainfall, and they can affect climate. They also affect human health and can lead to illnesses like asthma, heart disease and lung cancer.

Instead of studying the different paths that can happen to these particles, this group of scientists tried to look at them as a whole. They determined that the particles become what they call "particle soup," and the researchers created a chemical map of how the aerosols change once they are part of the soup. What they have learned will allow scientists to be better able to predict climate and air quality.

Last modified February 22, 2010 by Becca Hatheway.

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