Loitering in the Atmosphere: Wildfire Aerosols Linger Longer Than Expected
Light-absorbing brown carbon aerosols emitted by wildfires remain longer in the atmosphere than expected, which could have implications for climate predictions.
Rising 2,225 meters (7,300 ft.) into the air on an island in the Azores archipelago, Pico Mountain Observatory is an ideal place to study aerosols—particles or liquids suspended in gases—that have traveled great distances in the troposphere.
The troposphere is the portion of the atmosphere from the ground to about 10 kilometers in the air. Nearly all of the atmosphere’s water vapor and aerosol exist in the troposphere, and this is also where weather occurs. The Pico Observatory rises above the first layer of clouds in the troposphere, known as the atmospheric marine boundary layer. At that boundary the temperature drops rapidly, and relatively high humidity decreases as cooling air forces water to condense into cloud droplets.
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