Cloud and Aerosol Impacts on Arctic and Mid-latitude Climate and Water Resources

Home Nevada NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Program Discussion Forum Nevada NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Proposal Discussion Forum Cloud and Aerosol Impacts on Arctic and Mid-latitude Climate and Water Resources

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    David Mitchell

    The Arctic is warming 2 to 4 times faster than other regions, which is strongly correlated with extremes in mid-latitude weather and climate. It is thus important to know why it is warming and the processes responsible for extreme weather at mid-latitudes. Preliminary DRI research indicates that increasing high latitude clouds may be a large part of the answer to both questions. Based on satellite remote sensing and global climate modeling, this phenomenon intensifies the ridge of high pressure that often dominates northwestern North America during fall, winter and spring, substantially decreasing precipitation there and making the region more prone to wildfires. Unusually cold and snowy weather appears more likely downstream (east) of this ridge. Key science questions are: (1) What is the N. Hemisphere mid-latitude weather and climate impact of an observed increase in high latitude cirrus cloud coverage during winter? (2) How will the predicted enhanced ridging over western N. America affect water resources and ecosystems? (3) How are low-level Arctic clouds affected by changes in aerosol concentration? Related science questions are: What impact do retreating glaciers have on mineral dust concentrations (which affect cirrus cloud properties and ocean fertilization)? What impact would increased Arctic shipping have on trade and economics, as well as the albedo of Arctic ice and snow, Arctic cloud properties and sea ice loss?

    This research theme addresses one of NSF’s 10 Big Ideas “Navigating the New Arctic” (which includes understanding the link between a warming Arctic and extreme mid-latitude weather) and the 2015 NSHE Science and Technology Plan research priorities of climate change and water resources. Although several DRI investigators have expressed interest in this, we are seeking participants from UNLV and UNR who can contribute to this theme and/or possibly expand it, while maintaining a well-integrated and coherent research plan. This may include, for example, educational, economic and ethical aspects for broader impacts. The anticipated research requires extensive climate modeling, which will likely require an enhanced NSHE cyberinfrastructure (CI) program. We welcome collaboration with other investigators for building an institutionally balanced and integrated program.

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