Public Release:  Chemists develop new approaches to understanding disturbing trends near Earth's surface

American Chemical Society

INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 9, 2013 -- Chemists who are members of the American Chemical Society (ACS), collaborating with scientists from other fields through the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE), have discovered disturbing climate trends close to Earth's surface.

"The extreme weather we have had in recent years is but one example of the highly complex, global science-based challenges we are now living with," said ACS President Marinda Li Wu, Ph.D. "The climate research conducted by CAICE is providing startling insights that I believe will prove to be as important in protecting human health as the ozone research of 30 years ago."

The current research is being led by Kimberly Prather, Ph.D., director of CAICE and UCSD Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry, and Vicki Grassian, Ph.D., co-director of CAICE and F. Wendell Miller Professor, Department of Chemistry, The University of Iowa. Grassian is also an ACS Fellow.

Thirty years ago, scientists discovered that chlorofluorocarbons degraded ozone high above the Earth's surface. Furthermore, particulates, specifically polar stratospheric clouds, played a role in these processes. Subsequently, the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty signed in 1987, was enacted, fostering policies that have protected the ozone layer, and thus, people, from intense ultraviolet radiation ever since.

Now, the team led by Prather and Grassian is studying how the more complex troposphere is impacted by aerosols, particulates suspended in the air that can circle the globe in a matter of weeks or even just days. These particulates are emitted from a wide range of sources, including coal-fired power plants, vehicles, wildfires, volcanoes, desert dust and even sea spray. Depending on their chemical make-up, aerosols have been shown to have a vast array of environmental effects, impacting cloud formation, precipitation levels and human health. Yet, aerosols are the most poorly understood component of our atmosphere.

Understanding the chemistry of aerosols is so important that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is awarding CAICE with a Center for Chemical Innovation (CCI) grant, which will be reported at a special briefing at UCSD on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, at Noon PDT.

Immediately following, ACS will hold a press conference at 3:30 p.m. ET during the Society's 246th National Meeting in Indianapolis to discuss the critical importance that CAICE is having on understanding climate change, and the role of federal funding in supporting global challenges research. The press conference will feature the following speakers:

  • Moderator: Glenn Ruskin, Director, Office of Public Affairs, ACS

  • Vicki Grassian, Ph.D., CAICE Co-director and F. Wendell Miller Professor, Department of Chemistry, The University of Iowa

  • Kimberly Prather, Ph.D., CAICE Director and Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry, UCSD (remote access)

  • Mario Molina, Ph.D., Director of the Mario Molina Center for Energy and Environment and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UCSD; Nobel Laureate in Chemistry in 1995 with Paul J. Crutzen and F. Sherwood Rowland (remote access)

  • Prof. Francesco Paesani, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UCSD

  • Heather Allen, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, The Ohio State University

  • Joseph S. Francisco, Ph.D., ACS 2010 President and William E. Moore Distinguished Professor, Physical Chemistry, Purdue University

  • Jacquelyn Gervay-Hague, Ph.D., NSF, Division Director, Division of Chemistry, Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences

NSF has recognized CAICE as a CCI. CCIs focus on priority areas of sustainability, molecular electronics, and the chemistry-life science interface and address major, long-term fundamental chemical research challenges that have a high probability of both producing transformative research and leading to innovation.

The center brings together the diverse talents of chemists and researchers from different disciplines at several universities, including The University of Iowa; The University of Utah; The Ohio State University; Colorado State University; California Institute of Technology; The University of Wisconsin, Madison; Yale University; and the University of California, Davis and San Diego.

The press conference will be held during ACS' 246th National Meeting & Exposition, which will bring thousands of chemical scientists, engineers and others to Indianapolis for nearly 7,000 presentations on discoveries that span science's horizons.

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A press conference on this topic will be held on Monday, Sept. 9, at 3:30 p.m. in the ACS Press Center, Room 211, in the Indiana Convention Center. Reporters can attend in person or access live audio and video of the event and ask questions at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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