From University of Birmingham (UK) : “Trace gases from ocean are source of particles accelerating Antarctic climate change”

From University of Birmingham (UK)

14 May 2021

Scientists exploring the drivers of Antarctic climate change have discovered a new and more efficient pathway for the creation of natural aerosols and clouds which contribute significantly to temperature increases.

Antactica – new particles formed from ice-covered sea may contribute to climate change.

The Antarctic Peninsula has shown some of the largest global increases in near-surface air temperature over the last 50 years, but experts have struggled to predict temperatures because little was known about how natural aerosols and clouds affect the amount of sunlight absorbed by the Earth and energy radiated back into space.

Studying data from seas around the Peninsula, experts have discovered that most new particles are formed in air masses arriving from the partially ice-covered Weddell Sea – a significant source of the sulphur gases and alkylamines responsible for ‘seeding’ the particles.

A new study shows that increased concentrations of sulphuric acid and alkylamines are essential for the formation of new particles around the northern Antarctic Peninsula. High concentrations of other acids and oxygenated organics coincided with high levels of sulphuric acid, but by themselves did not lead to measurable particle formation and growth.

An international team of researchers from the University of Birmingham; Institute of Marine Sciences [Institut de Ciències del Mar] (ES), Barcelona, Spain; and King Abdulaziz University [ جامعة الملك عبد العزيز‎] (SA), Jeddah, Saudi Arabia studied summertime open ocean and coastal new particle formation in the region, based on data from ship and land stations, and today published its findings in Nature Geoscience.

The researchers revealed that the newly discovered pathway is more efficient than the ion-induced sulphuric acid–ammonia pathway previously observed in Antarctica and can occur rapidly under neutral conditions.

Study co-author Roy Harrison OBE, Professor of Environmental Health at the University of Birmingham, commented: “New particle formation is globally one of the major sources of aerosol particles and cloud condensation nuclei. This previously overlooked pathway to natural aerosol formation could prove a key tool in predicting the future climate of polar regions.

“The key to unlocking Antarctica’s climate change lies in examining particles created in the atmosphere by the chemical reaction of gases. These particles start tiny and grow bigger, becoming cloud condensation nuclei leading to more reflective clouds which direct outgoing terrestrial radiation back to earth and warm the lower atmosphere.”

New particle formation is globally one of the major sources of aerosol particles and cloud condensation nuclei. Existing research suggests that natural aerosols contribute disproportionately to global warming, whilst sulphuric acid is thought to be responsible for most aerosol seeding observed in the atmosphere.

The research team identified numerous sulphuric acid–amine cluster peaks during new particle formation events – providing evidence that alkylamines provided the basis for sulphuric acid nucleation.

“We found that sulphuric acid–amine–water nucleation is a dominant process in the Antarctic Peninsula, with the amines coming from regions of sea ice in the Antarctic Peninsula–western Weddell Sea region,” added Professor Harrison. “Waters in this region with significant amounts of sea ice are rich in amines, and aerosols originating from such regions show a near five-fold enhancement in amine concentrations.”

See the full article here .


Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

University of Birmingham (UK) has been challenging and developing great minds for more than a century. Characterised by a tradition of innovation, research at the University has broken new ground, pushed forward the boundaries of knowledge and made an impact on people’s lives. We continue this tradition today and have ambitions for a future that will embed our work and recognition of the Birmingham name on the international stage.

The University of Birmingham is a public research university located in Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom. It received its royal charter in 1900 as a successor to Queen’s College, Birmingham (founded in 1825 as the Birmingham School of Medicine and Surgery), and Mason Science College (established in 1875 by Sir Josiah Mason), making it the first English civic or ‘red brick’ university to receive its own royal charter. It is a founding member of both the Russell Group (UK) of British research universities and the international network of research universities, Universitas 21.

The student population includes 23,155 undergraduate and 12,605 postgraduate students, which is the 7th largest in the UK (out of 169). The annual income of the institution for 2019–20 was £737.3 million of which £140.4 million was from research grants and contracts, with an expenditure of £667.4 million.

The university is home to the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, housing works by Van Gogh, Picasso and Monet; the Shakespeare Institute; the Cadbury Research Library, home to the Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts; the Lapworth Museum of Geology; and the 100-metre Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, which is a prominent landmark visible from many parts of the city. Academics and alumni of the university include former British Prime Ministers Neville Chamberlain and Stanley Baldwin, the British composer Sir Edward Elgar and eleven Nobel laureates.

Scientific discoveries and inventions

The university has been involved in many scientific breakthroughs and inventions. From 1925 until 1948, Sir Norman Haworth was Professor and Director of the Department of Chemistry. He was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Science and acted as Vice-Principal from 1947 until 1948. His research focused predominantly on carbohydrate chemistry in which he confirmed a number of structures of optically active sugars. By 1928, he had deduced and confirmed the structures of maltose, cellobiose, lactose, gentiobiose, melibiose, gentianose, raffinose, as well as the glucoside ring tautomeric structure of aldose sugars. His research helped to define the basic features of the starch, cellulose, glycogen, inulin and xylan molecules. He also contributed towards solving the problems with bacterial polysaccharides. He was a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1937.

The cavity magnetron was developed in the Department of Physics by Sir John Randall, Harry Boot and James Sayers. This was vital to the Allied victory in World War II. In 1940, the Frisch–Peierls memorandum, a document which demonstrated that the atomic bomb was more than simply theoretically possible, was written in the Physics Department by Sir Rudolf Peierls and Otto Frisch. The university also hosted early work on gaseous diffusion in the Chemistry department when it was located in the Hills building.

Physicist Sir Mark Oliphant made a proposal for the construction of a proton-synchrotron in 1943, however he made no assertion that the machine would work. In 1945, phase stability was discovered; consequently, the proposal was revived, and construction of a machine that could surpass proton energies of 1 GeV began at the university. However, because of lack of funds, the machine did not start until 1953. The DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory (US) managed to beat them; they started their Cosmotron in 1952, and had it entirely working in 1953, before the University of Birmingham.

In 1947, Sir Peter Medawar was appointed Mason Professor of Zoology at the university. His work involved investigating the phenomenon of tolerance and transplantation immunity. He collaborated with Rupert E. Billingham and they did research on problems of pigmentation and skin grafting in cattle. They used skin grafting to differentiate between monozygotic and dizygotic twins in cattle. Taking the earlier research of R. D. Owen into consideration, they concluded that actively acquired tolerance of homografts could be artificially reproduced. For this research, Medawar was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He left Birmingham in 1951 and joined the faculty at University College London (UK), where he continued his research on transplantation immunity. He was a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1960.