How cosmic dust particles impact on stratospheric aerosol and chemistry

University of Leeds

In regards to the Venture

Scientific Background and Motivation

A considerable amount of complete cosmic mud enters the Earth’s environment on daily basis as small meteoroids at totally different mass, measurement and entry velocity (11.2-72 km/s). The meteoroids will fragment in the event that they expertise pressures increased than their tensile energy throughout atmospheric entry, with high-resolution video cameras displaying ~90% of huge meteoroids endure fragmentation. Meteoric ablation additionally happens as cosmic mud particles enter the environment at excessive velocity, with intense flash heating by way of collisions with air molecules, adopted by fast evaporation of metallic atoms and oxides as soon as the particles soften.

Quite a lot of metals (e.g. Na, Fe, Mg, Okay, Ca, Ni, and Si) are produced because the meteoroids ablate within the mesosphere and decrease thermosphere (MLT, ~70-120 km), producing layers of metallic atoms between 80 and 105 km. These meteoric metallic layers will be noticed by the ground-based lidar (laser radar) methods, in addition to by satellite-borne optical spectroscopy. Metallic ions are additionally measured by mass spectrometry on sub-orbital rockets, every metallic present a novel tracer of the physics and chemistry of the environment on the interface with geospace.

The metallic vapors generated by this meteoroid ablation (principally Fe, Mg, and Si) then oxidize and condense into tiny particles with the dimensions typical round 0.5-2 nm in radius. These are termed Meteoric Smoke Particles (MSPs), and are produced by polymerization of metal-containing molecules (e.g. FeOH, Mg(OH)2,MgCO3, NaHCO3 and Si(OH)2), forming throughout the comparatively long-lived reservoir species on the underside of the metallic layers. The MSPs are noticed by the satellite tv for pc measurement SOFIE spectrometer on the AIM satellite tv for pc, and are transported all the way down to the stratosphere contained in the polar vortex.

The dominant affect from the meteoric materials, is the way in which each kinds of meteoric particle (MSPs and meteoric fragments, MFs) might set off the nucleation of polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs). This heterogeneous nucleation of PSCs on meteoric particles has been inferred from a spread of various observations from latest discipline campaigns.

It has lengthy been hypothesised that stratospheric aerosol particles nucleate additionally heterogeneously on MSPs, and lab experiments at Leeds measuring the dissolution of MSP analogues in sulphuric aerosol within the lab and in addition the uptake of nitric acid and H2O2. The Leeds stratospheric composition modelling group not too long ago tailored the interactive stratospheric aerosol configuration of the UK composition-climate mannequin to symbolize this heterogeneous nucleation of MSP-sulphuric particles.

This PhD venture will contain world chemistry-climate mannequin experiments to grasp how meteoric particles (each MSPs and MFs) have an effect on the stratospheric aerosol layer, forming two distinct sub-classes of stratospheric sulphuric aerosol particles, these preferentially freezing to type nitric acid PSCs within the chilly Arctic, with subsequent results on polar ozone loss through heterogeneous chemistry.  The venture will assess the simulated mixture of stratospheric aerosol and PSCs for latest Arctic winters to satellite tv for pc measurements from the CALIOP lidar, which gives an distinctive document of PSC incidence for the interval 2006-present, with not too long ago additionally a brand new CALIOP stratospheric aerosol kind product.

The composition-climate fashions embody the influences from dynamics, transport, microphysics, photochemistry, radiation and their influences on stratospheric ozone depletion. A present neighborhood analysis focus is to grasp why satellite tv for pc observations present HCl is basically utterly depleted contained in the darkish, midwinter Antarctic polar vortex however most fashions considerably overestimate HCl on this area. The venture may even examine the affect of MSPs on Antarctic PSCs and discover whether or not the uptake of HCl on MSPs and/or meteoric fragments might probably be inflicting this obvious discrepancy.


The aim of this venture is to reply a quantity key questions: How do MSPs type and the way are they transported to the stratosphere; and the place they deposit on the floor? Why do present world fashions fail to seize the noticed floor deposition of MSPs? How do MSPs and fragments have an effect on stratospheric aerosol, PSCs and chemistry, and thus local weather change within the center environment? Which necessary processes are lacking within the present entire environment fashions?

On this venture, you’ll work with scientists to use world earth system fashions (WACCM(-X) and UKESM) with new functionality for meteoric particles, after which consider the brand new fashions in comparison with lidar and satellite tv for pc measurements. Particular objectives will embody:

  • Studying to run the prevailing WACCM (WACCM-X) which has a self-consistent remedy of MSPs explicitly by way of metallic chemistry, and the interactive stratospheric aerosol configuration of UKESM, which makes use of a prescribed climatology of MSPs from WACCM with the GLOMAP aerosol microphysics module.
  • Growing the sulfur chemistry and sectional aerosol microphysics in WACCM-CARMA, including the meteoric fragments and the meteoric sulfur scheme and present WACCM (-X) fashions with totally different metallic chemistry and D area chemistry (Feng et al., 2017; Airplane et al., 2015; Wu et al., 2021; Kovacs et al., 2016);
  • Amassing out there lidar/satellite tv for pc knowledge, together with from one venture collaborator, Dr. Josef Höfner on the Leibniz-Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Germany, who plans to make steady lidar measurements of MSPs within the stratosphere, after which evaluating with the WACCM-CARMA and UKESM fashions;
  • Performing long-term simulations to research the impression of stratosphere aerosol traits and chemical compositions with the inclusion of MSPs/fragments within the WACCM and UKESM fashions.

Potential for top impression final result:

This venture addresses the coupling of the environment to the geospace setting by creating self-consistent fashions for us to raised perceive the meteor astronomy, chemistry and transport processes that management atmospheric composition and aerosol within the center environment. The venture is subsequently prone to have vital impacts in quite a lot of fields, together with world atmospheric modelling, aeronomy, and aerosols.


The coed will work beneath the supervision of Dr Wuhu Feng, Professor John Airplane and Dr Graham Mann. This venture will present a excessive degree of specialist scientific coaching in: (i) the appliance of a world-leading atmospheric chemistry-climate fashions; (ii) evaluation and synthesis or giant datasets; (iii) use of superior Excessive Efficiency Computing services (, and The profitable PhD scholar could have a possibility to go to Germany and NCAR for gathering observations and mannequin improvement, in addition to coaching organised by the Doctoral Coaching Programme, the Nationwide Centre for Atmospheric Science, and attendance at nationwide/worldwide conferences.

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