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Aerosols, Clouds and Climate

  • 15 credits

This course focuses on the sources, sinks, and transformations of both natural and man-made aerosol particles, their interaction with clouds, and in turn their interaction with radiation in the atmosphere. You will learn about basic structure and functions of the atmosphere and about atmospheric models, from the local scale up to the large GCMs.

Optional course for the Master’s Programme in Environmental Science: Atmosphere-Biogeochemistry-Climate (ES-ABC).The course may also be taken as a freestanding course.

The most important tool to predict climate change, and to communicate the impacts to decision makers, media and the public are Global Climate Models (GCMs). Based on equations that describe emissions, sinks, transformation and transport of climate active components in the atmosphere a GCM simulate the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG) and aerosols, and the properties of clouds, in 3-dimension. Interactions with solar and terrestrial radiation are also important processes. Due to assumptions of economic development and political decisions future climate changes are very uncertain and, therefore, a variety of emission scenarios are used in the model simulations.

The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarise the state of climate research every 5-6 years. One clear result of their reports is that the climate effects of aerosols and aerosols-clouds are the most uncertain way in which mankind force the climate to change, much more uncertain than that of GHG.
This course therefore focuses on the sources, sinks, and transformations of both natural and man-made aerosol particles, their interaction with clouds, and in turn their interaction with radiation in the atmosphere. The course will also teach you about basic structure and functions of the atmosphere, including its exchange with the earth surface, and the general circulation of the atmosphere. Furthermore, we will teach you about atmospheric models, from the local scale up to the large GCMs.
Another key part of the course is to understand the interaction between radiation and aerosols and clouds. Aerosols in the cloud-free atmosphere directly scatter solar radiation back to the space. An increased number of man-made aerosols means increased scattering of solar radiation while also that more cloud droplets will be formed by cloud nuclei particles, which in turn increases the cloud albedo (reflection). There are also more complex indirect effects of man-made aerosols on the cloud properties, precipitation and cloud lifetime.


Understanding of the uncertainty of climate predictions, especially in relation to changes in aerosols and clouds, are an important part of the course. The course also covers experimental measurements that can match the spatial scale of global model data (satellite observations and networks of measurement stations), the construction of emission scenarios and global emission data bases. We will look at how IPCC works and the role of science in climate-political negotiations for future emission reductions. We will also cover various proposed so called “geo-engineering” methods involving aerosols and supposed to cool the climate and discuss their risks and disadvantages.

This course focuses on the sources, sinks, and transformations of both natural and man-made aerosol particles, their interaction with clouds, and in turn their interaction with radiation in the atmosphere. The course will also teach you about basic structure and functions of the atmosphere. Furthermore, you will learn about atmospheric models, from the local scale up to the large GCMs.
Another key part of the course is to understand the interaction between radiation and aerosols and clouds.

MI7021 bild
Figure from IPPC’s report ”Climate Change 2007 – The physical science basis”
  • Course structure

    Teaching format

    The teaching consists of lectures, seminars, laboratory and modeling exercises, written assignments and study visits. Seminars, exercises, assignments and study visits are mandatory.

  • Schedule

    This is a preliminary schedule and is subject to continuous change. For this reason, we do not recommend print-outs. At the start of the course, your institution will advise where you can find your schedule during the course.
  • Course literature

    Note that the course literature can be changed up to two months before the start of the course.

    Olivier Boucher, Atmospheric Aerosols: Properties and Climate Impacts, Springer 2015: www.springer.com

    Other material shared by the teachers over Athena

  • Contact

    Study councellor

    studeranu@aces.su.se

    Course coordinator

    Douglas Nilsson, Douglas.Nilsson@aces.su.se

    Department of Environmental Science, Unit of Atmospheric Science