研究含尘空气,对于当地和全球都有意义

2017-02-23 11:37:56 来源: 中国科技网 作者: 张微编译

了解阿拉伯地区大气的独特特征,对于全球研究都有益处。污染、天气、气候变化、人类健康、农业和渔业都受到大气中悬浮颗粒(它们统称为气溶胶)的影响。这对于中东地区特别重要,因为这里是地球上声名狼藉的沙尘带。

沙特阿拉伯阿卜杜拉国王科技大学(KAUST)地球科学教授和工程教授Georgiy Stenchikov领导的一个研究团队正在搜集重要的线索,研究气溶胶的全球变化模式,尤其是那些横跨阿拉伯半岛的气溶胶。“气溶胶的影响可能是大气研究中最不深入的部分,” Stenchikov说。通过与NASA的长期合作,这项工作的全球意义已经显露出来,该研究不断地向NASA的全球大气监测和分析网络提供数据。

Stenchikov在大气科学领域杰出的职业生涯开始于他的家乡俄罗斯,随后在美国几所大学担任研究和教学工作。他是一个国际专家团队的成员,联合国政府间气候变化专门委员会(IPCC)专家小组,该团队在2007年荣获诺贝尔和平奖。

作为2009年沙特阿拉伯阿卜杜拉国王科技大学研究团队的创始成员,Stenchikov被吸引到该研究中的大部分原因,正如他自己所描述的,是因为阿拉伯区域“独一无二的大气”。由于来自周围沙漠地区(包括非洲沙漠)扬起的尘土水平会发生极端的变化,加上强烈的阳光所产生的光化学作用,都使得这里的情况非常特殊。

灰尘和光的相互作用是Stenchikov研究的重点。他的目的是了解和模拟灰尘对空气污染的影响,以指导减轻空气污染的措施,并研究灰尘对许多其他领域的影响,从当地农业、工业到对全球气候变化的影响。

KAUST团队使用三个关键仪器,测量大气中的气溶胶粒子对太阳辐射的吸收和散射:机器人地面太阳光度计,自动发送数据到NASA的气溶胶机器人网络,包括遍布全球的监测站;手持式太阳光度计,该仪器已经在海上监测气溶胶的研究船上应用;激光的仪器,可以根据上述选定位置,建立气溶胶垂直分布的准确图片。

一项著名的科研船所进行的研究,揭示了沙尘对北方和南部红海地区能量平衡影响的明显差别。这导致了南部红海表面的加速冷却,Stenchikov预计,这必将影响该地区经济发展的重要组成部分:渔业的生产力。

研究人员还发现空气污染水平的变化与大气中沙尘产生和运输的变化模式有关。为了研究的更加深入,他们已经调查了灰尘如何从非洲转移到阿拉伯半岛的空气中,并且同时携带了营养物质进入红海的海洋生态系统,也影响了空气质量和区域的总能量平衡。

更好地了解灰尘和光也将巩固太阳能发电技术,这是沙特阿拉伯减少其对石油的依赖计划的主要组成部分。“阿拉伯沙漠接收的太阳能足够为整个世界提供能量,”Stenchikov指出,但知道哪里的灰尘以及灰尘如何阻碍能量的获取,对于规划未来的太阳能发电非常关键。

Stenchikov的团队开发了先进的计算机建模方法,可以描绘和预测沙尘流及其影响。这些可以用来检查并论证来自更大范围的数据源,包括卫星监测获得的数据。

该模型可应用于空中研究。例如,气溶胶光化学影响的一个模型,在最近的一篇关于南美洲生物质燃烧的研究论文中得到了关注。这项研究显示,与简单的煤烟不同,棕色碳(有机微粒)可以与太阳辐射相互作用,从而减少空气污染物的产生,包括臭氧。因此,生物质燃烧的一些影响实际上可以减轻其他方面的大气污染。

Stenchikov解释说,环境灰尘的影响非常复杂:益处包括为作物和渔业输送了营养物质,能够阻挡一些有害的紫外线辐射,而其对于空气质量和健康影响的缺点也非常明显。“灰尘对于能量平衡和大气化学的影响是巨大的,这方面我们仍需继续研究,” Stenchikov说。(张微编译)

以下为英文原文:

Studying dusty air has both local and global significance

Understanding the unique characteristics of the Arabian atmosphere has much to offer global research. Pollution, weather, climate change, human health, agriculture and fisheries are all affected by the suspended particles in the atmosphere collectively known as aerosols. This is especially significant in the Middle East, as part of the Earth's notorious dust belt.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Professor of Earth Science and Engineering Georgiy Stenchikov leads a research team that is gleaning important insights into the changing global patterns of aerosols, specifically those over the Arabian Peninsula. "The effect of aerosols is possibly the least understood aspect of the atmosphere," said Stenchikov. The global significance of the work is laid bare by a long-term collaboration with NASA that continuously feeds data into NASA's worldwide network of atmospheric monitoring and analysis.

Stenchikov's distinguished career in atmospheric science began in his native Russia followed by research and teaching posts in several universities in the U.S. He was part of a team of international experts that contributes to the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a team that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

A founding member of KAUST in 2009, Stenchikov was in part drawn by the opportunity to study what he describes as "the absolutely unique atmosphere" above the Arabian region. It is unique due to the high and extremely variable levels of dust thrown up from the surrounding deserts, including those in Africa, combined with strong sunlight to power photochemistry.

The interplay of dust and light is the main focus of Stenchikov's research. His aim is to understand and model the effect of dust on air pollution both to guide steps to mitigate air pollution and to study the influence of dust on many other areas ranging from local agriculture and industry to global climate change.

The KAUST team uses three key instruments to measure the absorption and scattering of incoming solar radiation by aerosols in the atmosphere: a robotic ground-based sunphotometer that automatically sends data into NASA's Aerosol Robotic Network, comprising monitoring stations around the globe; a hand-held sunphotometer instrument, which has been used during research ship cruises to monitor aerosols over the sea; and a laser-based instrument that can build an accurate picture of the vertical distribution of aerosols above selected locations.

One notable ship-based study revealed a distinct separation in the effect of dust on the energy balance in the northern and southern Red Sea. This leads to increased cooling of the Red Sea surface in the South, which Stenchikov expects must influence the productivity of the fisheries that are a key part of the region's economy.

The researchers have also detected changes in air pollution levels linked to altered patterns of dust generation and transport through the atmosphere. Looking farther afield, they have investigated how dust moves from Africa to the air above the Arabian Peninsula, bringing nutrients into the Red Sea ecosystem and also affecting the air qualityand total energy balance of the region.

Better understanding dust and light will also underpin the development of solar power generation technologies, which are a major part of Saudi Arabia's plans to reduce its dependence on oil. "The Arabian Desert receives enough solar energy to power the entire world," Stenchikov pointed out, but knowing where and how dust may hinder capturing some of that energy is crucial to planning a solar-powered future.

Stenchikov's group develops sophisticated computer modeling methods that can represent and predict dust flows and their effects. These can be used to collate and verify data obtained from a wide range of data sources, including satellite monitoring.

The models can be applied to skies far from Stenchikov's base at KAUST. For example, one model of the photochemical influence of aerosols was featured in a recent research paper on biomass burning in South America. This study revealed that unlike simple soot, brown carbon (organic particulates) can interact with solar radiation in a way that reduces the generation of air pollutants, including ozone. Thus, some effects of biomass burning can actually alleviate other aspects of atmospheric pollution.

Stenchikov explained that the effects of environmental dust are very complex: benefits include delivering nutrients for crops and fisheries and screening out some harmful UV radiation, while drawbacks are evident from its effect on air quality and health. "The influence of dust on the energy balance and chemistry of the atmosphere is huge, and there is still much we need to understand," said Stenchikov.

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