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Learn more about my research Have a question for the Atmospheric Chemist?

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


posted on Thu, 07/14/2011 - 1:37pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

That's an excellent question, and I may not be the best qualified to answer it with respect to cancer rates, but I can describe the atmospheric science at least. The ozone "hole" forms from chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) in the atmosphere, which were used as refrigerants and propellants. They're very stable in the lower atmosphere and can persist for decades there. When they eventually make it to the mid-atmosphere they are broken down into radicals that are transported to the poles as reservoir species. At the poles, under the right conditions, they can destroy ozone quite effectively in the spring when the sun comes out. The main ozone hole occurs over the Antarctic in the southern hemisphere spring, although a smaller one does occur over the Arctic as well. So, most people, unless they live at very high latitudes in the extreme north or south, are not affected by the lack of a protecting ozone layer over the poles. CFC's have been banned at this point in most countries, but because of their long lifetimes and outgassing from old refigerators, etc., the ozone hole is not expected to fully recover until about 2065 or so. In short, although we will have ozone depletion for many years to come, it's generally contained to extreme latitudes and shouldn't, in my unqualified opinion, have a large effect on cancer rates.

posted on Thu, 08/11/2011 - 7:07am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I have always heard that aerosols are bad for the enviornment but in the way that they heat it up. From what I've read, do aerosols actually cool the globe more than it indirectly heats it?

posted on Sun, 07/24/2011 - 2:24pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

It depends what aerosols we are talking about here. Most people think of spray cans when they hear aerosols. In that case, yes, they do warm up the atmosphere because CFC's, which are pretty strong greenhouse gases, were traditionally used as the propellants in spray cans. The aerosols to which I am referring, however, are tiny particles suspended in the atmosphere, often referred to as particulate matter. In this case, most of the particles primarily scatter solar radiation, some of it back into space, thereby cooling the surface and counteracting greenhouse warming somewhat.

posted on Mon, 10/24/2011 - 7:13am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Is your job also called a astronamer?

posted on Wed, 08/03/2011 - 1:32pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

No, an astronomer studies celestial bodies (stars, planets, galaxies, etc.) in space. My job as an atmospheric chemist is focused on just Earth's atmosphere. However, there are many atmospheric chemists who also study the atmospheres of other planets to try and determine what their atmospheres are made of and whether there may be life on the planet.

posted on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 3:12pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

what do atmospheric chemist do? is it fun? do you like people? do you like to interact withother people? if not than why are you a chemist? do you have any pets?

posted on Thu, 08/04/2011 - 10:53am
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

This may seem kind of obvious, but atmospheric chemists study the chemistry of the atmosphere. The atmosphere is made up of lots of atoms, molecules, charged particles, and particulate matter. Most of these species are too small to see, but they are constantly being transported and transformed through chemical reactions with other species and through interactions with sunlight. The chemistry of the atmosphere is very important because we must breathe it to survive, and also because its composition drives our climate, or what the weather is like over long periods of time. Atmospheric chemists like me study what the chemistry of the atmosphere is like now, what it might be like in the future, and how any changes may affect human health and the climate.

I think my job is pretty fun. I do like people too. I have to interact with people all the time. I'm a professor, so I'm constantly interacting with students and colleagues at my university. And as a researcher, I interact with really cool people from all over the world who study similar things as me.

Right now, we have two cats. We had a Chinese Water Dragon too, but she didn't do so well. Good thing I'm not a biologist! :)

posted on Wed, 08/31/2011 - 2:04pm
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place's picture
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place says:

Will the use of aerosols eventually change the color of the sky?

posted on Fri, 08/05/2011 - 2:41pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

It sounds like, by your use of the term aerosols, that you are referring to the propellants used in spray cans. These became infamous because of the CFC's that were used as propellants that led to ozone destruction and the formation of the ozone hole. When I refer to aerosols in my research, I am referring to particulate matter in the atmosphere, which can be of human or natural origin - anything from dust or sea salt to particles from vehicular emissions and power plants. Unfortunately, aerosol is a general term that means a suspension of particles in a gas, so could refer to any number of things. Anyway, now that we've cleared up that confusion, I will say, yes, aerosols (whether you mean propellants or atmospheric particles) could change the color of the sky. In fact, they already do! Any atmospheric constituent that scatters visible light will change the color of the sky. That's why the sky is blue! Because molecules in the atmosphere preferentially scatter the shorter, blue wavelengths of light. And aerosols (particulate matter in this case) also change the color of the sky. When the sky looks nice and hazy (especially when it's really hot and humid in the summertime), that's from particles in the atmosphere scattering sunlight. Because the particles come in many different sizes, they scatter all visible wavelengths, causing a whitish haze. That's why clouds look white too, because they scatter all visible wavelengths of light. I hope this answers your question.

posted on Fri, 08/12/2011 - 1:32pm
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place's picture
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place says:

I want to know why hurricanes happen.

posted on Fri, 08/05/2011 - 2:42pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

Wow, I have to put on my weather weenie hat now. :) There are six basic ingredients to hurricane formation:
1. High sea surface temperatures that extend pretty deep below the surface - these "feed" the strong convection necessary for hurricanes to develop from the evaporation of warm water at the surface and the instability of the atmosphere that is created, with warm temperatures below and cooler temperatures aloft. The warm sea temperatures must go deep, however, because the strong winds will stir up the water. If it's too cool below the surface, that could be the end of the hurricane.
2. Atmospheric Instability - which is fed by warm sea surface temperatures. Warm air at the surface will be more buoyant than cooler air aloft and will rise rapidly. This lift is necessary for the development of strong thunderstorms in a hurricane.
3. Moist air in the middle troposphere (~8-10 km) - this helps to maintain positive buoyancy of air in a hurricane. If the air is too dry in the mid-troposphere, when it gets sucked into the hurricane, it will cause evaporation and cooling of the air, which will cause that air to sink, and sinking air's not good for a hurricane.
4. Weak vertical wind shear - wind shear is a change in wind speed or direction with altitude. If wind shear is too strong, it will decouple the top of the storm from the bottom and kill the hurricane.
5. Rotation - a hurricane cannot form too close to the equator (less than about 5 degrees latitude). Without going into detail about the Coriolis force, hurricanes need rotation. If you get too close to the equator, the Coriolis force is too weak and you don't have the necessary rotation to form a hurricane.
6. Cyclonic spin - easterly waves, which are tropical disturbances that form north of the equator over Africa and move westward across the tropical North Atlantic, are the "seeds" that provide the low level cyclonic (counter-clockwise) spin for many of the hurricanes that form over the North Atlantic (the ones that affect us!).

posted on Fri, 08/12/2011 - 2:24pm
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place's picture
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place says:

Why does thunder happen in the sky?

posted on Fri, 08/12/2011 - 7:20am
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

Thunder happens when lightning heats the atmosphere to extremely high temperatures - about 50,000 deg F. That's a lot hotter than the surface of the sun! Such extreme and rapid heating causes the air around the lightning to expand explosively. This explosive expansion of the air creates a sound wave that propagates in all directions at the speed of sound - and voila, you have thunder!

posted on Wed, 08/17/2011 - 7:40am
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place's picture
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place says:

Would you reccomend your job to others? I have bad eyesight and want a job that's do-able. Do you think it's a good idea? Just looking into the future here...

posted on Fri, 08/12/2011 - 7:21am
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

Despite my funky glasses, my eyesight isn't that bad. ;)

Either way, I would recommend my job to others. I love what I do. It's great because I get to do something different every day and feel like I'm always solving puzzles to find the best answer. You could absolutely do this job with bad eyesight. No vision tests required for atmospheric science!

posted on Wed, 08/17/2011 - 7:43am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

when and where did you get your inspiration of becoming a Atmospheric Chemist?

posted on Sat, 08/13/2011 - 2:48pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

That's a really good question. I knew that I wanted to go into some type of environmental science, as I was interested in the environment, loved the outdoors, and really enjoyed science and math. I originally thought that I would be a biologist, but I thought biology was pretty boring. Then I started taking chemistry and knew that I had found the field for me. When I went to graduate school, though, I still hadn't settled on atmospheric chemistry. I just knew that I would do some type of environmental chemistry. It just so happened that the research group that I was most interested in working with (for a variety of reasons) was an atmospheric research group. The rest is history, as they say.

posted on Wed, 08/31/2011 - 2:10pm
guy's picture
guy says:

what is ambient paticulate matter?

posted on Mon, 08/15/2011 - 11:21am
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

Ambient particulate matter is particles that are suspended (floating around) in the atmosphere. They come from lots of different sources, both natural and man-made, and can include things like dust and sea-salt as well as smoke from forest fires and particles that form from vehicle and industrial emissions. Some, like dust and smoke particles, are big enough or dense enough to be visible to the naked eye, but most are too small to see, even though we're breathing them in all the time. Often times, though, you can see a haze in the atmosphere, especially if you look toward the horizon. This haze is caused by the particles in the atmosphere, or ambient particulate matter.

posted on Wed, 08/31/2011 - 2:19pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Hi Brett, How long do particulates from volcanic eruptions typically remain airborne?

posted on Tue, 08/16/2011 - 3:12pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

Great question...and it depends. If it's a large enough volcanic eruption, and the eruption is directed straight up, the particles from the eruption can make it into the stratosphere (above about 15-18 km) and stay in the atmosphere for years. That's what happened with the El Chichon and Pinatubo eruptions in recent decades. Eruptions of this scale and type actually cause a global cooling, much like a nuclear winter would, because the particles in the stratosphere block incoming sunlight. These are pretty special eruptions, though. Even most large eruptions, such as Mount St. Helens, don't make it into the stratosphere because the direction of the eruption is not right. Mount St. Helens was a massive eruption, but it erupted more to the side, essentially blowing the side off of the volcano, rather than going straight up. For those eruptions that don't make it into the stratosphere, volcanic particles emitted lower in the atmosphere will only last an average of about a week before they get rained out.

posted on Wed, 08/31/2011 - 2:28pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


posted on Fri, 08/19/2011 - 3:08pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

It's not about whether I believe it or not. Science is not based on a belief system. It is based on testable hypotheses and evidence. And the evidence for man-made global warming is overwhelming.

posted on Mon, 10/24/2011 - 7:05am
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place's picture
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place says:

What are your projections in terms of Earth's habitability as time goes on?
Do you think colonization on other planets is a good solution to global warming and the gradual weakening of the Earth's ecosystem?

posted on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 7:46am
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

Whew, those are some serious questions, and way outside of my area of expertise, but I'll try and answer as best I can regardless. As far as habitability goes, that depends on your perspective. If you're looking at it from a global perspective, I think it will be quite some time before Earth as a whole is inhabitable. However, if you're living in a low-lying coastal region or are a polar bear or some other species living in a threatened environment, habitability may be lost in the next century.

Now for colonization of other planets. I don't think that's a solution at all to climate change, unless you're talking about removing the entire human population from Earth. Even that, though, would probably cause more damage than staying, at least for the foreseeable future, if you think about all of the nuclear facilities and the like that would cause catastrophic damage to Earth if abandoned. I think the colonization of other planets is a very cool idea from an intellectual perspective and probably necessary down the road for the survival of the human species, but I think we're a loooong way from realizing what is currently only a reality in Sci-Fi books and movies.

posted on Thu, 09/15/2011 - 7:34am
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place's picture
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place says:

Why do storms happen?

posted on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 7:48am
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

In general, it all comes down to energy balance. When the distribution of energy becomes imbalanced in the Earth-atmosphere system, the energy will be redistributed as it tries to restore a balance. Sometimes that redistribution of energy can happen very quickly if there is a large imbalance.

More specifically, when the atmosphere becomes highly unstable, severe weather, or storms, may occur. The instability happens when there is a large difference in the temperature of the warm air near the surface and cooler air aloft. Warmer air is more buoyant than cooler air, and if there is a large temperature difference, the warmer air may rise very rapidly. If the warm air is also moist, it will rise even more and will provide the precipitation for severe storms once the air that has risen cools enough to condense out the water vapor as liquid or solid water. That rapid rising of air (redistributing the higher energy, warm air near the surface up into the atmosphere) and formation of precipitation as the warm, moist air cools higher up in the atmosphere provide the ingredients for severe weather. And voila, you have a storm!

posted on Thu, 09/15/2011 - 8:21am
MALIK's picture
MALIK says:


posted on Fri, 10/28/2011 - 11:33am
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

I would have to say the most interesting thing about the atmosphere is the fact that it supports most of the life on the planet. That, and extreme weather is pretty cool too! :)

posted on Thu, 02/16/2012 - 12:50pm
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place's picture
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place says:

Hunter asks,
"What happens in the eye of a tornado?"

posted on Mon, 10/31/2011 - 7:06am
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

You mean besides being carried off to Munchkinland in Oz? Seriously, it's actually very difficult to know for sure. Making a measurement inside of a tornado is nearly impossible and no reliable measurements, as far as I know, have actually been made within a tornado. That said, the air pressure inside of a tornado will be considerably lower than outside, probably dropping by 100 millibars or more (around 10% lower than normal). It would be roughly the equivalent of the air pressure drop if you climbed a 3000 ft. mountain. I wouldn't advise trying it though. :)

posted on Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:43pm
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place's picture
From the exhibit floor at Discovery Place says:

Ariana wants to know,
"What's the best part of your job?"

posted on Mon, 10/31/2011 - 7:07am
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

That's a tough one. I enjoy so many things about my job. I think the thing that I really enjoy most, though, is the freedom to design my own experiments to try and better understand the world around me. And then when you discover something new and interesting - it doesn't get much better than that!

posted on Mon, 11/07/2011 - 2:17pm
Rocky295769436's picture
Rocky295769436 says:

Why do we need to know science?

posted on Mon, 11/07/2011 - 10:55am
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

Science has given us everything from modern medicine to modern appliances. In general, though, the scientific method has given us a specific way to look at the world around us and to figure things out in an analytical manner. In my opinion, everybody should have a good basis in science for a couple of reasons. One, because science teaches us how to approach problems (any problems) in an analytical manner. Two, because without a foundation in science, people are not able to understand the specific problems that plague us today and that will continue to plague us into the future. Take climate change, for example. If people don't understand the issues, they are not able to make informed decisions to try and mitigate the problems. Other examples include renewable vs. non-renewable fuels, stem cell research, and many others.

posted on Fri, 12/23/2011 - 12:32pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Is the earth in grave danger because of global warming? i was wondering because everybody has something different to say about it

posted on Sat, 11/19/2011 - 2:36pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

Hopefully not anytime soon. Seriously, I don't think the planet itself has much to worry about. It will most likely persist for at least a few billion more years. The life that currently inhabits the planet (including us!) is another matter altogether. We're already seeing the impacts of climate change and will continue to do so into the future. Species that live in fragile ecosystems are already being impacted or will be in the near future and will suffer the most in the near term. However, exactly what the consequences will be to most species is very difficult to say. Climate change is like conducting an enormous, planetary scale experiment. We have hypotheses as to what the impacts will be, but the uncertainty is very large and it's difficult to say exactly how many areas and species will ultimately be affected.

posted on Thu, 02/16/2012 - 1:03pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What size particulates is most unheathy for humans? Is this size particular matter rising? What other environmental impactswill this have? Thanks!

posted on Sat, 11/26/2011 - 2:40pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

In general, particulate matter of any size is not particularly good for humans. However, particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers (a micrometer is one millionth of a meter) or less will make it past our nasal passages and lodge in our lungs, which tends to have the most negative impact on human health. For the most part, in this country, because of regulations on emissions over the past few decades, this size particulate matter is decreasing. But, because of rising global temperatures, emissions or organic (carbon-based) compounds from plants may increase. These compounds can also form small particles in the atmosphere, so it's difficult to predict what will happen with the overall amount of particles in the atmosphere. Most atmospheric particles primarily scatter solar radiation, leading to a net cooling, which can offset greenhouse gas warming somewhat. So, if we decrease the amount of particles in the atmosphere, this could actually exacerbate the greenhouse warming that we're currently experiencing. But if plant emissions increase, leading to greater particle formation, this could again offset some of the warming. As you can probably tell, it's a very complicated issue that we're just beginning to understand.

That said, in many developing countries around the world with rapidly expanding economies and regulatory policies that are lagging very far behind, emissions are also increasing, leading to an increase in the amount of particulate pollution. In general, atmospheric particles only last for about a week before being rained out, so particulate pollution is much more regional in nature than most greenhouse gases, for example. This adds to the difficulty in trying to understand the climate (and health) impacts of particulate matter on a global scale.

posted on Fri, 12/23/2011 - 1:07pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

what are some good ways to help our atmosphere?

posted on Sat, 11/26/2011 - 2:44pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

The most important thing we can probably do is to cut down on our carbon emissions. We can do this in a couple of ways. One way is by conserving fuel. This is something that we can all do by making some simple changes like using compact fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent light bulbs and remembering to turn off the lights when leaving a room, turning down the heat in your house (or using a programmable thermostat), walking and biking instead of driving (which is also good for you), etc. The other way is to use less fossil fuels and more clean, renewable fuels, like solar and wind power. This is something that everyone can do as well, but that also needs to be dealt with on a larger scale by the leaders of today. Scientists can provide the evidence necessary to allow politicians to make the most informed decisions possible, but citizens can also let their representatives know that it's time to take action. It's also important to remember that the atmosphere is fine either way, it's the plants and animals that rely on the atmosphere that are suffering.

posted on Fri, 12/23/2011 - 1:30pm
Carolne and Abby's picture
Carolne and Abby says:

What causes different sized hail? What conditions have to exist for baseball sized hail?
caroline and Abby

posted on Sat, 12/10/2011 - 4:24pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

Hi Caroline and Abby,
In every cloud, there are updrafts (where the air moves up) and downdrafts (where the air moves down). If the top of a cloud is cold enough, a liquid cloud droplet can freeze, making a little ball of hail, as it moves upward in an updraft. As it then moves down in a downdraft, the hail may thaw, but if it's cold enough lower down in the cloud (and below the cloud), the hail may make it all the way to the ground as a frozen particle. Sometimes, after coming down in a downdraft, the hail will then get sucked back into an updraft, adding another layer of ice to it on its journey up through the cloud. This may happen several times, causing the hail to grow with every pass, until eventually it's too heavy and falls out of the cloud. This is when you can get some very large balls of hail!

Your friend,

posted on Fri, 12/23/2011 - 1:48pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Hey why do you like seince?

posted on Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:06pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

I like science because I'm a curious person and science gives me the tools necessary to explore the world around me. The type of science I do allows me to work with my hands while solving problems with my mind. I also love the freedom that I have in designing my own experiments to try and answer the important questions facing us today. Most of all, it's fun!

posted on Fri, 12/23/2011 - 1:13pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Which particles are bad and how can we stop them

posted on Wed, 12/21/2011 - 3:46pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

That depends on what you mean by bad. We need particles in the atmosphere to make clouds, so some amount of particles is always a good thing. But, there are naturally occurring particles (sea salt, dust, etc.) and man-made particles. Man-made particles may contain chemical compounds that are harmful to human health. Plus, they are typically smaller than naturally occurring particles. Smaller particles can more easily make it past our nasal defenses and lodge in our lungs, which can lead to serious health issues or even death (in people whose health is already compromised). Also, smaller particles tend to have a larger climate impact because they are closer in size to the most intense wavelengths of light coming from the sun. So, if I had to pick the "bad" particles, I would have to say man-made particles are the worst culprits.

posted on Thu, 02/16/2012 - 1:13pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What is intriguing about you job?

posted on Mon, 12/26/2011 - 2:45pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

Wow, that's a tough question. Not because I can't think of anything that's intriguing, but because so much of it is intriguing! That's why I love science so much. It's all about being curious about the world around you and trying to figure things out. Everyday there are new mysteries to solve and puzzles to piece together. Sometimes it can get frustrating and feel like you're trying to find your way in the dark, but that moment when things start to come together provides a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

posted on Tue, 02/21/2012 - 1:32pm
sawyer's picture
sawyer says:

how did the atmosphere form

posted on Sat, 01/14/2012 - 1:48pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

The full answer to that question could probably fill several books (and has!). And most of what we "know" is based on the geological record, meaning that most of the atmospheric formation to date occurred in the very distant past, so we have prevailing theories about atmospheric formation, but can never know for sure. Fortunately, though, I think I can summarize a very simplified version of a theory of atmospheric evolution pretty succinctly. In short, there have been three main stages of atmospheric evolution. The first atmosphere probably consisted of primarily hydrogen and helium after Earth was just formed, as these were the main gases in the solar "dust" from which the planets formed. Early Earth and its atmosphere were very hot just after formation, so most of the hydrogen and helium were traveling very fast and eventually escaped into space. The second atmosphere evolved when Earth was still very young and geologically active. There were many volcanoes that emitted water vapor, carbon dioxide and ammonia. Much of the carbon dioxide dissolved into the oceans. Eventually, simple bacteria evolved that could use the carbon dioxide (together with sunlight - the first photosynthetic activity on the planet!) for energy. The waste product they gave off was oxygen. Carbon dioxide levels continued to decrease as it was used up, and oxygen levels continued to increase as it was emitted as waste. At the same time, the ammonia (NH3) was split apart by photons from the sun, leaving nitrogen and hydrogen. The hydrogen, being so light, eventually escaped into space, as it did in the "first atmosphere". So, over time, the atmosphere that we have today, with lots of nitrogen and oxygen, formed. And there you have it!

posted on Wed, 02/22/2012 - 12:33pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

why are dry particulates like sulfates and nitrates worse on people than when they are suspended in water droplets

posted on Sat, 01/28/2012 - 3:40pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

I'm not sure they necessarily are. Most atmospheric particles go through phases of wetting and drying out, depending on the relative humidity and whether they get sucked up into a cloud or not. I think it's more a matter of size. In general, the same particle will be larger if it is wet than if it is dry because of the uptake of water. It will often grow larger during this period too if more material is dissolved into the liquid. Smaller particles are typically more of a concern for human health than large particles because they can make it past our nasal defenses and lodge themselves in our lungs. So, that could be a reason that dry particles are more of a health concern than wet ones. Anyway, I hope that answers your question.

posted on Wed, 02/22/2012 - 12:41pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What is the connection between engine emissions and atmospheric pollution?

posted on Thu, 04/05/2012 - 12:36pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

Engines, depending on what type (e.g., diesel, four-stroke, two-stroke, etc.), emit carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, volatile organic compounds (VOC's), and particulate matter into the atmosphere. Most of these compounds, if breathed in directly, are not very good for you from a health perspective, but they also have many climate and air quality impacts. Nitrogen oxides and VOC's are the two main ingredients necessary for producing ozone, a strong oxidant that damages cell tissue (both plant and animal) and which is also a greenhouse gas. They can also lead to atmospheric particle formation, thereby having large climate and visibility impacts (together with the particles that were directly emitted).

posted on Fri, 05/04/2012 - 12:15pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Why do ambient particles have such a huge effect on Earth's climate?

posted on Thu, 04/05/2012 - 12:37pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

For both "direct" and "indirect" reasons. Particles directly interact with solar radiation by either absorbing or scatting the light. Most particles primarily scatter solar radiation, some of which is scattered back up into space. Because that solar radiation which was scattered back to space never reaches the surface, particles have a net cooling effect. For mainly absorbing particles (e.g., soot), because they largely absorb solar radiation, they can heat up the layer of atmosphere where they reside. This can actually burn off clouds or prevent them from forming in the first place. Speaking of clouds, particles also have an indirect effect on the climate. Clouds need particles to form. The particles provide nucleation sites for the water vapor to condense onto and form cloud droplets. When we add a more particles to the atmosphere, this can affect the size of cloud droplets, the opacity of clouds (how optically thick a cloud is), their potential to form rain drops, and cloud lifetimes. Because clouds have such a large impact on the water cycle and climate, aerosols do as well, just indirectly.

posted on Fri, 05/04/2012 - 12:37pm
caden donaldson's picture
caden donaldson says:

why do dolphins go to the surffec of the water

posted on Thu, 06/21/2012 - 1:50pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

Dolphins are mammals, just like us. That means they need to breathe air like us. They go to the surface of the water so that they can breathe. Plus, I'm sure they also enjoy playing in the sunshine just like us!

posted on Wed, 07/18/2012 - 7:21am
raya donaldson's picture
raya donaldson says:

why do we have gases in the atmosphere :)

posted on Thu, 06/21/2012 - 1:51pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:

Gases actually make up the atmosphere. Gravity holds the gases close to the surface, creating the atmosphere as we know it. The gases are emitted into the atmosphere from different sources. Hydrogen and helium were the main gases in the solar "dust" from which the planets formed. Early Earth and its atmosphere were very hot just after formation, so most of the hydrogen and helium were traveling very fast and eventually escaped into space. Then, volcanoes started emitting water vapor, carbon dioxide and ammonia. Much of the carbon dioxide dissolved into the oceans. Eventually, simple bacteria evolved that could use the carbon dioxide (together with sunlight - the first photosynthetic activity on the planet!) for energy. The waste product they gave off was oxygen. Carbon dioxide levels continued to decrease as it was used up, and oxygen levels continued to increase as it was emitted as waste. At the same time, the ammonia (NH3) was split apart by photons from the sun, leaving nitrogen and hydrogen. The hydrogen, being so light, eventually escaped into space, as it did early on. So, over time, the atmosphere that we have today, with lots of nitrogen and oxygen, formed. And there you have it!

posted on Wed, 07/18/2012 - 7:35am
brittney's picture
brittney says:

what are your projections in terms of earths habitability as time goes on?

posted on Mon, 06/25/2012 - 10:43am
shona's picture
shona says:

do you believe that the green house gases will ever be ABLE to be decreased?

posted on Wed, 06/27/2012 - 12:07pm
Jordan's picture
Jordan says:

Are there many different kinds of Atmspheric Chemists, or is there just your job? I was also wondering how long it takes to get your information for your research. Does it take a day, or can it take a week or more?

posted on Sat, 06/30/2012 - 10:21am
Skylar Stranzl's picture
Skylar Stranzl says:

Whats it going to take to make the atmosphere like it was 100 years ago?

posted on Sun, 07/01/2012 - 12:38pm
Isaac Schofer's picture
Isaac Schofer says:

Does volcanic lightning produce electricity?

posted on Sat, 07/07/2012 - 3:59pm
Sophie Walker's picture
Sophie Walker says:

Why do we need clouds? Are they a neccesity?

posted on Tue, 07/10/2012 - 12:25pm
NOAH's picture
NOAH says:


posted on Tue, 07/10/2012 - 1:21pm
zoey's picture
zoey says:

? why does tornados happen?

posted on Wed, 07/11/2012 - 9:17am
maria's picture
maria says:

the wind force is the reason

posted on Thu, 07/12/2012 - 9:30am
zoey and jackie's picture
zoey and jackie says:

why does lightning strike so badliy with metal

posted on Wed, 07/11/2012 - 9:27am
jacob 's picture
jacob says:

i just wanted to know if it's possible to send some o zone gases back into the air

posted on Wed, 07/11/2012 - 10:28am
Sammy gal's picture
Sammy gal says:

What is the main casue of atmospheric pollution?

posted on Wed, 07/11/2012 - 11:35am


posted on Wed, 07/11/2012 - 12:14pm
Brett Taubman's picture
Brett Taubman says:


posted on Wed, 07/18/2012 - 7:23am
Annabelle's picture
Annabelle says:

what is the favorite part of your job?

posted on Wed, 07/11/2012 - 12:34pm
adrian's picture
adrian says:

the atmosphier is large where tiny little people

posted on Sat, 07/14/2012 - 3:10pm
Carmen Saavedra's picture
Carmen Saavedra says:

what would you suggest to stop the climate change or at least reduce it in matter or enviromental conditions? Related to aerosol activities :)

posted on Sat, 07/14/2012 - 3:44pm
camnick's picture
camnick says:

Why does it hail in the summer?

posted on Mon, 07/16/2012 - 11:49am
Walter's picture
Walter says:

Is it viable to enrich the oceans with carbon-fixating bacteria to reduce the amount of Co2 in the atmosphere, or should we use another method? Will the atmosphere heal over time or will we enter something similar to the Eocyne Period?

posted on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 10:34am
Sally JR's picture
Sally JR says:

hi i am a person with a question. My question is why is Lighning yellow????

posted on Fri, 07/20/2012 - 1:58pm
taylor's picture
taylor says:

what is the difference between hail and sleet?

posted on Mon, 07/23/2012 - 10:42am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

why does globalwarming happen? And is it happening now?

posted on Mon, 07/23/2012 - 1:19pm
grace craig's picture
grace craig says:

i really like science and i hope that can be one, one day

posted on Wed, 07/25/2012 - 11:24am

Why do volcanos errupt?

posted on Thu, 08/02/2012 - 2:50pm
jakayla's picture
jakayla says:

they erupt because the minerals and rocks

posted on Fri, 08/03/2012 - 9:08am
jordan  grace  moore       's picture
jordan grace moore says:

why is a tornato so dangerous?what happens in the eye of a tornato? from ,jordan

posted on Thu, 08/02/2012 - 3:17pm
Cecilia's picture
Cecilia says:

How can we stay and live here and not on Mars? I know one reason because of no air we can breath,but, are there any other reasons?

posted on Tue, 08/07/2012 - 11:19am
GRAYSON's picture


posted on Thu, 08/09/2012 - 11:50am
person's picture
person says:

why are you so studip

posted on Thu, 08/09/2012 - 12:30pm
person's picture
person says:

why are you so studip

posted on Thu, 08/09/2012 - 12:30pm
Anonymomus's picture
Anonymomus says:

what is causeing riseing tempeture is it the ozone or something else

posted on Thu, 08/09/2012 - 1:30pm
nadira 's picture
nadira says:

why does the clouds come?

posted on Thu, 08/09/2012 - 1:42pm
enyone's picture
enyone says:

will we be in danger with ozone depletion, and what will happen/

posted on Sat, 08/11/2012 - 12:08pm
enyone's picture
enyone says:

greenhouse gas? is it a depleation of the ozone

posted on Sat, 08/11/2012 - 12:17pm
Annabell's picture
Annabell says:

HELLO for me it is very interesting to learn about what you do for a living...... so you are like a scientist? now when im in school im not very good at science but it is very interesting to learn about. How old were you when you were starting to be interested in science?!? thanks and i hope you respond.

posted on Wed, 08/15/2012 - 12:48pm
Annabell's picture
Annabell says:

what made you want to get into your job

posted on Wed, 08/15/2012 - 12:50pm
fayegsm's picture
fayegsm says:

how high do clouds get

posted on Thu, 08/16/2012 - 11:41am
JERMANY's picture

because whenever it rains it form or lets say it condenses and it jus make one big cloud so the point im trying to make is that the process come together

posted on Fri, 08/17/2012 - 1:17pm
gaby's picture
gaby says:

why did u pick this job?

posted on Sat, 08/18/2012 - 11:15am
chase's picture
chase says:

what makes the sky blue

posted on Sat, 08/18/2012 - 11:52am
Your Worst Nightmare's picture
Your Worst Nightmare says:

How does antimatter work

posted on Mon, 08/20/2012 - 12:45pm
Tigger's picture
Tigger says:

What is the direct relationship between climate change and various forms of cancer? Also, what are the most beneficial and malevolent particles that we breathe on a daily basis?

posted on Wed, 08/22/2012 - 12:11pm
jjjjjjjjgtufrrhg's picture
jjjjjjjjgtufrrhg says:


posted on Sun, 08/26/2012 - 2:52pm
Sandy's picture
Sandy says:

why does the sky turn green before, a hail storm? I have seen this happen in Kansas.

Thank you

posted on Sat, 09/01/2012 - 1:08pm
Data Diva's picture
Data Diva says:

Is it possible to distribute particulates into the atmosphere to help cool it/reverse or slow the progress of global warming and greenhouse gases? If so, what are the ethical consideration?

posted on Sun, 09/02/2012 - 6:25pm
Nialls secret lover's picture
Nialls secret lover says:

wyare polar bears big

posted on Fri, 09/21/2012 - 8:12am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

what is the cause of a storm?

posted on Fri, 09/28/2012 - 12:32pm
Diane's picture
Diane says:

Is Global Warming real? And what 1thing can an average person do to help?

posted on Mon, 10/01/2012 - 11:32am
alison's picture
alison says:

do you ever seen a shoting star moving?

posted on Sun, 10/21/2012 - 12:28pm
Skyler Owens's picture
Skyler Owens says:

how do hurricanes stop?

posted on Sat, 11/03/2012 - 2:20pm
Locust School's picture
Locust School says:

What can a 5th grade student do to stop global warming?

posted on Tue, 11/13/2012 - 10:50am
Someone somewhere's picture
Someone somewhere says:

What happens in the eye of a hurrican?
-Someone somewhere

posted on Sat, 11/17/2012 - 4:08pm
Someone somewhere's picture
Someone somewhere says:

Why do hurricans and tornados and storms happen?!?!?

posted on Sat, 11/17/2012 - 4:09pm
taelaeyia thomas's picture
taelaeyia thomas says:

What is the hardest thing for you in your job and was it your first career choice ?

posted on Sat, 12/01/2012 - 3:23pm
person's picture
person says:

is it possible forsomething not to have color?

posted on Tue, 12/04/2012 - 12:51pm
Cool kids!!'s picture
Cool kids!! says:

what is yuor favorite part of your job????

posted on Tue, 12/04/2012 - 1:04pm
Ella's picture
Ella says:

Why do hurricanes occur?

posted on Wed, 12/05/2012 - 12:00pm
benjamin's picture
benjamin says:

can you get disieses from tornadoes

posted on Sun, 12/09/2012 - 3:17pm
ray ray's picture
ray ray says:

THanks for your help i got and a on my projets when i did them

posted on Wed, 12/19/2012 - 11:51am

why does thunder happen in the sky?

posted on Thu, 12/27/2012 - 12:47pm