SEAS Receives NSF Grant

Two faculty members at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are leading an effort funded by the National Science Foundation to better understand the causes of Arctic climate change.

Daniel J. Jacob, a professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering, will be the lead primary investigator for the project, while Loretta J. Mickley, a senior research fellow, will co-lead the research, according to a SEAS press release.

The researchers hope that by studying the atmospheric conditions in the Arctic that they will be able to better understand the specific causes of warming in the region over the past three decades, Mickley said.

Researchers say they will accomplish this goal by developing a global 3D model of the earth’s climate system and atmospheric composition, according to the press release.

The NSF grant, which was publicly announced Monday, provides $477,787 in funding over three years, according to the press release.


Jacob and Mickley, who have been working together for over 15 years, started receiving the funding early this year.

So far they have examined the role of soot particles in Arctic warming, Mickley said.

Soot transported from polluted

areas can be deposited on snow and sea ice.

The soot absorbs solar radiation which accelerates the warming and melting process, Jacob said.

“This is really what we’ve been targeting: non-standard explanations for the warming of the Arctic over the past 30 years,” Jacob said.

“This is very important in order to be able to make projections for the future of what’s going to happen to the Arctic sea ice and the implications for global climate change.”

The Harvard researchers will be sharing the funding with collaborators at the University of Washington.

While the Harvard researchers will focus on atmospheric modeling, the University of Washington scientists will study Arctic sea ice.

At the end of the project, Jacob said that he expects that the results will be used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to explain to world governments “how policies directed at emission and fire control could alter the course of climate change in the Arctic.”

“I think that as we learn what can affect the regional climate of the Arctic, it will help policy makers know what levers to pull and what we should change in the way that we generate power, for example,” Mickley said.

“What is going on up there? Why is the ice declining so rapidly? Those are the type of questions that we want to answer.”


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