With a grant from NASA totaling up to $30 million over five years to research the interactions between aerosols and cloud properties over the Western Atlantic, Armin Sorooshian has reached new heights.
Sorooshian, professor of chemical and environmental engineering at the University of Arizona, has spent his career at high altitudes, whether he’s soaring above the Pacific Ocean collecting aerosol samples or in his lab atop the UA Physics and Atmospheric Sciences building, examining them.
“The selection of our project is a testament to the University of Arizona’s role as a harmonizer between several institutions focusing on one of the most pressing issues impacting this planet: climate change,” said Sorooshian, who is also a professor in hydrology and atmospheric sciences, and public health. “I am deeply humbled by the opportunity to lead this NASA mission to reduce uncertainty about human-caused effects on the atmosphere, specifically interactions between aerosol particles and clouds.”
Sorooshian, the principal investigator for the grant, is joined on the project team by Xubin Zeng, Agnese N. Haury Endowed Chair in Environment, professor of hydrology and atmospheric sciences, and director of the Climate Dynamics and Hydrometeorology Center at the UA College of Science, who is the deputy principal investigator for the grant. Other collaborators include scientists and engineers from NASA Langley Research Center, and several other universities, research centers, and laboratories.
The funding comes from NASA’s Earth Venture-class program, which funds projects investigating important, but not-well-understood aspects of Earth system processes. Sorooshian and four other investigators from around the United States make up the third cohort of Earth Venture suborbital investigators. NASA selected their projects for funding from among 30 proposals, and awardees will take to the field beginning in 2020.
Sorooshian has spent his career studying aerosols – microscopic particles that can be released into the air by everything from sea spray and pollen to vehicles and power plant emissions. The particles affect areas including climate and human health, but current understanding of their chemistry, the way they interact with elements such as moisture and change during aging in the atmosphere is limited.
Sorooshian and Zeng’s investigation will focus on marine boundary layer clouds over the western North Atlantic Ocean that have a critical role in our planet’s energy balance. Two NASA research aircraft, an HU-25 Falcon and a B-200 King Air, will fly from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, to gather measurements from above, below and within the clouds.
“This NASA grant for earth investigations is a great achievement for professor Sorooshian, the engineering program and the University of Arizona,” said UA President Robert C. Robbins. “Armin Sorooshian has long been a nationally recognized leader for his expertise in measuring the impact of aerosols on clouds. This is critical work for the future of our world and an outstanding example of the UA’s capacity for positive impact globally.”