Atmospheric Aerosols

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Atmospheric aerosol, also commonly called airborne particulate matter (PM), is a subject of extensive research that, since the beginning of the 80s, has received increased attention from the atmospheric science community. This is in part due to the enormous advances in measurement technologies from that period, which have allowed for an increasingly accurate understanding of the chemical composition and of the physical properties of atmospheric aerosol and its life cycle in the atmosphere.

The growing scientific interest in atmospheric aerosol is also due to its high importance for environmental policy. In fact, particulate matter constitutes one of the most challenging problems both for air quality and for climate change policies. Atmospheric aerosol affects air quality and, in turn, human and ecosystem well-being and also have an important role in the Earth’s climate system. Understanding of aerosol nucleation, emission, deposition, transport and life cycle is probably the most pressing issue in air quality regulation worldwide, and at the same time it represents one of the biggest sources of uncertainty in current climate simulations.

This book, which collects contributions from an international team of scientists with different backgrounds, is aimed at providing an overall interdisciplinary picture of the aerosol lifecycle, from nucleation and emission to atmospheric processing. Also, the measurement techniques and the aerosol environmental effects are discussed.

The first Chapter of the book provides an overview of the main sources of atmospheric aerosol, both primary and secondary and of natural and anthropogenic origin.

Chapters 2 and 3 describe the atmospheric processing and removal of aerosol: new particle formation, coagulation and condensation processes, wet and dry deposition and aerosol-cloud interaction.

Chapter 4 provides an overview of the chemical climatology of atmospheric aerosol and of some emerging issues in aerosol science such as the nature and processes of organic aerosol and the chemical properties of aerosol affecting their cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and ice nuclei (IN) ability.

Chapter 5 introduces the basic elements of aerosol optics which are needed for the understanding of aerosol radiation transfer modelling (Chapter 6) and the remote sensing of atmospheric aerosol both from ground based measurements and from airborne and space platforms (Chapter 7). This latter chapter also provides useful examples of international aerosol remote sensing experiments carried out in different regions of the world.

Chapter 8 addresses the role of aerosol on climate, both in terms of direct (i.e. radiation scattering and absorption properties of aerosol particles) and indirect (i.e. the effect of aerosol on cloud structure and radiative properties acting as CCN and IN) effects.

Chapter 9 examines the effects of aerosol on air quality and the interactions between air quality and climate, the retrieval of aerosol data from satellite measurements and a characterization of mass concentration and optical properties of desert dust in different areas of the Earth.

Chapter 10 then describes the effects of particulate matter on human health, both in terms of epidemiology and toxicology, the quantification of human exposure to particulate pollutants, and the mechanisms and effects of the interaction between particulate matter and the human body.

The last Chapter addresses an aspect rarely discussed in books of aerosol science, i. e. the effects of aerosols that cause damage to heritage materials, both indoor and outdoor: monumental complexes, archaeological sites and heritage objects. The chapter describes the monitoring of the damages, the physical, chemical and biological mechanisms of interaction between atmospheric aerosols and cultural heritage material and the guidelines for the conservation of cultural heritage.

We wish to thank all colleagues who have contributed to the book and have provided such a wide and interdisciplinary overview on atmospheric aerosol: their origin, processing in the atmosphere, measurement techniques and environmental effects. We also wish to thank Prof. Teruyuki Nakajima for having kindly agreed to write the Foreword to this book.

  • Claudio Tomasi
  • Sandro Fuzzi
  • Alexander Kokhanovsky