Prof Zoran Ristovski
Queensland University of Technology
Research voyage to the Great Barrier Reef to study how coral influences rainfall in the region.
Understanding the role of clouds in the warming and cooling of the planet - and how that role changes in a warming world - is one of the big uncertainties that climate researchers face. A key feature in this regard is the influence on cloud properties of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN), the very small atmospheric aerosol particles necessary for the nucleation of every single cloud droplet.
This study will determine the mechanisms of new particle production in one of the biggest ecosystems in Australia, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). It will aim to establish if marine aerosol along the Queensland coast is coral-derived, and show that this aerosol can affect the CCN concentration and therefore cloud formation and the hydrological cycle.
There is one supplementary project on this voyage:
- Biogeochemical and optical properties of the Coral Sea and Queensland shelf (Karen Wild-Allen, CSIRO): This project aims collect high resolution biogeochemical observations for validation of eReefs models and collect in situ optical data for the NASA CORAL project.
This voyage has delivered a better understanding of the atmospheric composition over the Great Barrier Reef and of the key processes that underpin new particle formation in this area.
This project was first time that an attempt was made to demonstrate that an ecological system, such as the GBR, can have significant influence on the climate and hydrological cycle over a large part of Australia. It was also the first time that, in the GBR area, researchers mapped the atmospheric particle characteristics(size, composition, CCN, etc.) as well as the changes in the DMS concentration (a key chemical responsible for new particle formation) both in the water column and air.
The knowledge gained from project will provide the scientific basis for the management of water and land resources in the north Queensland region that will lead to increased protection for key agricultural areas. It will also improve public policy on the protection of the unique environmental assets, the rainforests and reefs of north Queensland.
The voyage allowed a number of new methods, including drones and tethersondes, for studying atmospheric processes to be evaluated for on-board use.
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