The central focus of the Earth, Wind & Particles research group in the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Department at UCLA is to understand and quantify interactions between particles and the climate system. This research is critical because the climate impact of aerosols (particles suspended in the atmosphere) constitutes one of the main uncertainties in our understanding of both past and future climate changes.
Within the broad field of aerosol-climate interactions, most of our group’s work focuses on desert dust aerosols, which are the constituent particles of dust storms, and account for about two thirds of atmospheric aerosol mass. The Earth, Wind & Particles group is interested in answering fundamental questions like: How much dust is actually in the atmosphere? Does dust warm or cool the climate, and by how much? Has the large increase in atmospheric dust since pre-industrial times enhanced or counteracted anthropogenic climate change? And will future climate-induced changes in the desert dust oppose or enhance anthropogenic climate change? How much can we reduce the uncertainty on the all-important climate sensitivity by determining the perturbation of the Earth’s energy balance produced by dust? What are the impacts of dust on the hydrological cycle? What are the global health impacts of the inhalation of dust aerosols?
In order to answer these fundamental questions, our group also works extensively on understanding the small-scale physical processes that are at the root of dust impacts on the Earth system, such as the emission and deposition of dust. Finally, our group is interested in aeolian processes across the solar system, and in particular in unraveling the mysteries of sand transport and dust emission in Mars’ dilute atmosphere and on Saturn’s fascinatingly Earth-like moon Titan. Our group’s research is discussed in more detail here.
The Earth, Wind & Particles research group is headed by professor Jasper Kok, and funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Army Research Office, and the U.S. – Israel Binational Science Foundation.