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UCSD Building Mock Ocean For Climate Research

Audio

Aired 10/6/10

Scientists at UC San Diego received a $1.5 million grant to study how chemicals in the air affect the Earth's climate. The first step is to build an ocean on campus.

Scientists at UC San Diego received a $1.5 million grant to study how chemicals in the air affect the Earth's climate. The first step is to build an ocean on campus.

Kim Prather is an atmospheric chemistry professor and the principal investigator at the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and Environment.

Above: Kim Prather is an atmospheric chemistry professor and the principal investigator at the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and Environment.

The money will be used to create the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE).

The research at the new facility seeks to unlock the mystery of how what we put in the air affects the climate.

Kim Prather is the center’s principal investigator and an atmospheric chemistry professor who holds appointments in the UCSD Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, as well as at Scripps Oceanography.

She said the project will use indoor tanks to create a small-scale ocean for experiments.

"Where we can basically simulate wind and waves and bubbles and all of the things you get from the real ocean but we'll be able to do it in a really controlled and understandable way, so that we can look at the impacts of the ocean on our atmosphere and our atmosphere on the ocean," said Prather.

Prather said until now this area of climate research has been conducted in labs, rather than real-world conditions.

She said the experiments at the new center may provide answers as to how chemicals in the air affect clouds and rain patterns.

Prather said an existing wave tank at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography will be modified and likely ready for the first experiments in January.

The new center will include research led by investigators in UCSD’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Scripps who represent fields ranging from fundamental chemistry to biological, chemical and physical oceanography.

Co-investigators and advisors from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry include Timothy Bertram, Mario Molina, Robert Pomeroy, Francesco Paesani and Mark Thiemens.

Scripps co-investigators and advisers include Grant Deane, Lynn Russell, Lihini Aluwihare, Brian Palenik, Andrew Dickson and Veerabhadran Ramanathan.

CAICE will also feature an educational component that will be integrated into science education programs at Birch Aquarium at Scripps.

Prather said a key focus of the center will be to reinvigorate K-12 science education through environmental measurements.

The initial educational partners include Paul Ecke Central Elementary School in Encinitas and Castle Park High School in Chula Vista, two schools that are working with UCSD scientists to incorporate related marine and atmospheric studies into their science curricula, using the center’s outreach budget.

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