UCSD receives $20 million grant for atmospheric chemical research

SAN DIEGO — UC San Diego Monday announced a five-year, $20 million grant to fund the university’s atmospheric chemistry research program.

The grant from the National Science Foundation is an extension of a five-year, $20 million grant awarded by the NSF in 2013. The money will fund new studies by the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment on pollution interaction with natural ocean emissions and how that interaction affects the atmosphere and leads to extreme weather.

“In the first five years, we have established a unique approach for studying the complex ocean-atmosphere system by delving deeply into how natural ocean biology processes affect the chemical composition and evolution of our atmosphere,” said CAICE Director Kim Prather. “We are now poised to take the next step and add in the effects of human activities, directly addressing which processes most strongly influence the composition of our atmosphere.”

According to CAICE researchers, the mixture of human chemical emissions with the atmosphere could potentially alter how clouds form and where rain falls, in addition to causing detrimental health effects for coastal residents. Researchers plan to use a state-of-the-art atmosphere simulator to study the ways in which wind, temperature, sunlight and pollution are changing oceanic and atmospheric conditions.

“Similar to the pioneering chemistry research of Nobel Prize winner and UC San Diego professor Mario Molina on the stratospheric ozone hole, researchers within the center are focused on untangling the chemical complexity of the ocean-atmosphere interface, sea-spray aerosol and its chemical evolution once airborne, and the impact this has on the environment using state-of-the-art experimental and theoretical methods,” said CAICE Co-Director Vicki Grassian.

CAICE became a designated Center for Chemical Innovation in 2013 when the NSF awarded the first five-year grant. The center is partnered with other atmospheric chemistry research centers across the country, including centers at Yale, UC Irvine and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“As a public research university, UC San Diego is committed to conducting investigations that unlock mysteries, advance the frontiers of knowledge, and benefit our society and planet,” said UCSD Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “This center has been a beacon of innovation in its first phase and now will take discovery to the next level in its second phase.”