Aerosol and Air Quality

Atmospheric Science

The Atmospheric Science Mobile Lab making wintertime measurements of methane and volatile organic compounds in an oil and gas field.


An aerosol is a collection of tiny (typically smaller than a few microns) particles that remain lofted in the Earth's atmosphere for extended periods of time (days to weeks). Aerosol particles range from desert dust to black and organic carbon from wildfires to nitrate aerosol from pollution. They have significant impacts on climate, visibility and human health. Research on aerosols in the department spans from in-situ (Murphy and Caulton) and remote sensing (Saito) observations of their chemical, optical, physical, and cloud-particle-nucleation properties to modeling studies (McCoy) of their radiative properties and life cycles (including emission, transport, dry deposition, and wet scavenging by clouds and precipitation). Field studies are conducted from both ground-based and airborne platforms using advanced instrumentation, some of which were developed at UW. Modeling studies are based on the simulations from the global Community Earth System Model (CESM) and regional Weather Research and Forecasting Model with chemistry (WRF-Chem). Modeling of aerosols and their radiative forcings are constrained by validating model results with in-situ (Caulton and Murphy) surface and aircraft observations and remote sensing observations from satellites and lidar (Saito).

Air quality research at UW (Murphy and Caulton) includes measurements of aerosol particles, but is also focused on measurements of volatile organic compounds (VOC, which can be toxic and lead to tropospheric ozone), secondary aerosol formation, and greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, the air quality research group at UW is working to understand how emissions from oil and gas extraction impact air quality in the Mountain West. To learn more, watch the YouTube video here.

Contact Us

University of Wyoming,

Atmospheric Science,

EN 6034

Dept. 3038

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307)766-3245


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