HOUSTON (KIAH) – A group of researchers at Texas A&M say there are many aerosols in the Houston Air that can interact with convective storm systems: marine and urban aerosols, smoke from industry and dust. The U.S. Department of Energy recently is funding a new field campaign to study to help atmospheric scientists better understand how aerosols affect storm systems.

The TRACER campaign, or Tracking Aerosol Convection Interactions Experiment, is a co-operated field study that will be carried out by the DOE Atmospheric Radiation Measurement user facility including Texas A&M University scientists through Sept. 30, 2022. Anita Rapp, associate professor, is serving as principal investigator, with co-investigators Sarah Brooks, professor, and Christopher Nowotarski, associate professor. They are leading a research team of graduate and undergraduate students to conduct a series of observations and experiments during the TRACER intensive operational period.

The scientists will collect data on aerosols and atmospheric characteristics to learn more about aerosol-cloud interactions in storm systems over the Houston area.

“To improve our understanding of the interactions between aerosols and convective systems, we need to understand both aerosol and meteorological conditions of the atmosphere,” Rapp said. “However, one of the difficulties in understanding the impact of aerosols on storms, especially from an observational standpoint, lies in separating the effects of aerosols from effects of the background meteorology.”

In Houston, for example, the sea breeze, soot, dust and smoke emitted by industrial pollution sources and urban heat island all contribute to different aerosol and meteorology background conditions, raising the uncertainty of predicting aerosol`s impact on convection and climate in models.

All data collected during the campaign will be saved in the DOE archive and freely accessible online.