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Using stable isotopes in water vapor to study the interdependence of clouds, atmospheric aerosols, and precipitation processes

Active Dates 9/1/2022-5/31/2024
Program Area Atmospheric System Research
Project Description
Using stable isotopes in water vapor to study the interdependence of clouds, atmospheric aerosols, and precipitation processes

PI: Joseph Galewsky

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of New Mexico

Water on Earth is mostly made up of the familiar H2O, but small amounts of water are made up of different stable isotopes of hydrogen or oxygen.  The stable isotopic composition of atmospheric water vapor is a sensitive recorder of the diverse range of processes that set the humidity of the atmosphere. Aerosols play a particularly important role in the formation of clouds and precipitation, but understanding the influence of aerosols on these processes remains a key challenge in the atmospheric sciences. Measurements of water vapor isotopic composition in conjunction with measurements of aerosol properties may provide a new way for us to understand the interdependence of clouds, aerosols, and precipitation processes. The Department of Energy (DOE) Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility has extensive expertise in the measurement and analysis of aerosols and clouds, while our group at the University of New Mexico has 15 years of experience in the measurement and analysis of water vapor isotopic composition. Our ability to take full advantage of the potential benefits of isotopic measurements to DOE research goals is currently hindered by our lack of familiarity with the full scope of DOE user facilities, research programs, and research support mechanisms. In this project, we will work to develop the capabilities and partnerships required to leverage ARM user facilities with our expertise in isotopic measurements to advance the core research mission of the Atmospheric System Research (ASR) program. This project consists of four components: (1) To visit the site of the TRACER experiment in Houston to better understand the suite of cloud and aerosol measurements that can be made by the ARM user facility; (2) To travel to an ASR meeting in 2023 to further develop collaborations for joint research activities; (3) To develop stronger links between our group at UNM and relevant groups at Los Alamos National Laboratory; (4) To work with colleagues at Brookhaven National Laboratory to make a preliminary analysis of the aerosol and cloud datasets available for comparison with existing isotopic datasets. The expected outcome of this project is improved institutional participation by the University of New Mexico in the DOE’s key research mission of improved understanding and predictability of the Earth’s climate system.
Award Recipient(s)
  • University of New Mexico Albuquerque (PI: Galewsky, Joseph)