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Aerosols & climate


In addition to the simple components (e.g. molecular oxygen, ozone, nitrogen) that constitute the Earth’s atmosphere, the atmosphere also contains microscopic particles, of which the composition, form and size are far less known.

These small droplets play an important role in the physicochemistry of the stratosphere:

  • they change its optical characteristics (absorption and diffusion of light)
  • at their surface they can trigger important chemical reactions, in particular the destruction of ozone


Stratospheric Aerosols and Polar Stratospheric Clouds

The structure of aerosols and their impact on the stratosphere depend on several parameters, including the local temperature. When temperatures are not too low, these particles appear as fine droplets that are known as stratospheric aerosols...

Read complete article Stratospheric aerosols and polar stratospheric clouds


Monitoring the upper atmosphere by satellite

Earth’s climate is certainly influenced by major volcanic eruptions, which are the main responsible for the massive injection of aerosols in the stratosphere. In this field, BIRA-IASB has acquired a very solid expertise, in terms of modelling and observing, thanks to the GOMOS instrument.

Aerosol Density
NRS Climatology BIRA-IASB, May 2003 (C. Bingen, F. Vanhellemont, D. Fussen, S. Cherkari)

At an altitude of about 90 km, the general circulation is dominated by gravity waves that reflect climatological disturbances undergone by the lower atmospheric layers (one of the many aspects of global changes). This general circulation also seems to have an influence on the distribution of mesospheric sodium whose first world climatology was produced by BIRA-IASB.

Besides, the institute is currently developing the ALTIUS project, which will be the first Belgian observation mission of the stratosphere from a PROBA microsatellite. With a worldwide coverage, it will enable to measure, in addition to the ozone, the depth profiles of water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane and aerosols.


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