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UW Professor’s Research on Aerosols in Climate Models Recognized As ‘Hot Paper’

October 16, 2013
Man using computer
Xiaohong Liu, UW professor of atmospheric science and Wyoming Excellence Chair in Climate Science, is the lead writer on a paper about how different types of aerosols affect the climate. His work is considered a “hot paper” by Essential Science Indicators from Thomson Reuters. Here, Liu displays a global map that shows aerosol hot spots during different seasons. (UW Photo)

A University of Wyoming professor has written what is termed a “new hot paper” in the field of geosciences.

Xiaohong Liu, UW professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science and the Wyoming Excellence Chair in Climate Science, was the lead writer on a paper titled, “Toward a Minimal Representation of Aerosols in Climate Models: Description and Evaluation in the Community Atmosphere Model CAM5.”

Liu’s paper documents advanced aerosol computer models that simulate the life cycles of atmospheric aerosol particles produced from industry, wildfire, oceans and deserts -- and how these particles affect the climate and weather systems.

“This is a pretty hot topic in the climate community,” Liu says. “Atmospheric aerosols cool the Earth’s climate system and, thus, mask the warming effects from greenhouse gases. However, there are still large unknowns about how strong the aerosol cooling and masking effect is. There have been tremendous efforts in the last two decades to understand aerosol processes in the atmosphere, and to represent aerosols and aerosol effects in computer models.”

Liu wrote the paper in 2012 while he was a senior research scientist at the Atmospheric Science and Global Change Division of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, located in Richland, Wash.

Essential Science Indicators, from Thomson Reuters, lists a new crop of what it call “hot papers” in science every two months, according to the Science Watch website. Hot papers are selected by virtue of being cited among the top one-tenth of 1 percent (0.1 percent) in a current bi-monthly period. Papers are selected in each of 22 fields of science and must be published within the last two years. Essential Science Indicators are limited to Thomson Reuters’ scientific-indexed journal articles.

Because new hot papers are recent scientific contributions recognized during a current period, they may signal important new trends in research and serve as leading indicators of scientific advancement.

To date, Liu’s paper has been cited 52 times in Web of Science, a citation index that covers leading scholarly literature. Citations for the paper have appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science U.S.A., Journal of Climate and Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, among others. It also is cited in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report.

“Professor Liu is a very prominent part of a team of scientists working on the NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) climate prediction model,” says Al Rodi, professor and head of the UW Department of Atmospheric Science.

Liu’s research project recently was selected for use on the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC). Liu is studying how aerosols -- produced from wildfires, wind-blown deserts, volcanic eruptions and the burning of fossil fuels -- affect the atmosphere, and is developing prediction models for future climate prediction.

To conduct his research, Liu uses the Community Earth System Model (CESM), which is a major climate model used by researchers in the United States and internationally. The CESM model has participated in the latest IPCC 5th Assessment Report.

“This is a highly cited paper because it (model) provides an advanced tool for climate studies,” Liu says. “People want to use the model to study different aspects of climate change, e.g., heat wave, flooding, drought, Arctic sea ice change, sea-level rising, etc.”

Liu edits the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. He has served as a guest professor at Nanjing University in China, and the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing, China, where he advises doctoral students.

To read Liu’s hot paper, go to

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