Atmospheric aerosols are tiny liquid or solid particles suspended in air. They have a significant role in the radiative balance through their direct interaction with incoming solar radiation (scattering and absorption), and indirectly through their interactions with cloud (they act as seeds on which water can condense to form clouds).
Indirect effect is a much more complex problem, and involves the role of aerosols in the cloud formation and the modification of their properties such as changes to cloud reflectivity, cloud cover, lifetime, and precipitation.
The biggest uncertainties in the current climate models come from understanding the effects aerosols have on climate.
To improve the models and reduce these uncertainties studies are needed of aerosol properties in pristine environments such as the Southern Ocean (SO) and the Antarctica where anthropogenic influence is negligible.
From Oct 2018 to March 2019 there were four voyages to Antarctica on the Australian icebreaker 'Aurora Australis'. During these voyages, a comprehensive data set on aerosol physical and chemical was collected.
This project will involve identifying gaseous precursors of aerosols by analysing data obtained by Chemical Ionisation Mass Spectrometer (CIMS) for these voyages.
- CIMS is a state of the art instrument that measures gaseous components in the air in real time.
- We're primarily interested in sulphuric and methanesulphonic acid (oxidation products of dimethyl sulphide (DMS) which is emitted by phytoplankton and algae).
- These acids are important for formation and growth of aerosol particles in marine atmosphere.
This will be followed by interpreting their time series by comparing them with meteorological parameters, other measured aerosol properties and air masses back trajectories. This will allow us to understand their origin and impact on aerosols in the Southern Ocean atmosphere.
As these voyages were a part of a big project involving several different institutions, the candidate will have an opportunity to collaborate with atmospheric scientists from other Australian universities and institutions.
The outcomes of the proposed project are expected to be published in a top atmospheric science journal.
Skills and experience
This project will be suitable for you if you have a background in chemical/physical sciences and an interest in analysing large data sets.
If you're interested in furthering the study towards a PhD project, you'll be trained on the aerosol sampling equipment that will enable you to participate in one of the voyages in the Southern Ocean and/or Antarctica.
You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.
Contact the supervisor for more information.