Cloud Physics Research at ASRC

Researchers:  Chris Walcek

Clouds play important roles in atmospheric chemistry and climate, and yet their effects and feedbacks on tropospheric chemical and meteorological processes are poorly understood. Processes occurring in clouds influence our atmosphere through several mechanisms. Buoyantly-driven updrafts and downdrafts within clouds rapidly transport heat, water vapor, momentum, and pollutants between the lower and upper atmosphere.

Precipitation produced by clouds rapidly removes water and other soluble contaminants from the atmosphere. Condensed water in clouds scatters radiation, reducing the rates of photochemical reactions in the lower troposphere, while also redirecting incoming solar radiation away from the Earth's surface. Aqueous-phase chemical reactions also occur in clouds, changing the chemical reactivity of the atmosphere.

The goal of our cloud research program is to quantify the influence of clouds on atmospheric chemistry, short-term meteorology, and climate using available cloud observations in conjunction with numerical models of cloud processes. Students in this program explore cloud microphysical processes including nucleation and growth of cloud droplets and precipitation, convective dynamics, and cloud chemistry.

Current projects are exploring the parameterization of cloud-scale processes within larger-scale meteorology and climate models. We are also using sophisticated atmospheric chemical models to study the interactions between clouds and tropospheric chemistry.