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Alpine Summer School 2012 - Climate, Aerosols and the Cryosphere

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From Wednesday 20 June 2012
To Thursday 28 June 2012
by  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Hits : 121

Paolo Laj         (LGGE, Univ. de Grenoble - CNRS),
Mike Bergin       (Georgia Institute of Technology),
Cristina Facchini (ISAC-CNR)

Presentation of the Course:

The cryospheric regions are extremely sensitive to climate change. Dramatic visual changes are observed across the landscape in various snow and ice environments, providing direct evidence for climate related changes. Over the past decades a significant decline has been observed in a variety of snow/ice scenarios across cold regions. Sea ice in the Arctic is shrinking in all seasons, most dramatically in summer, many mountain glaciers, in particular those in North America and the high mountain ranges of the Himalaya-Karakorum are getting smaller and snow cover is retreating earlier in the season. Reductions in snow cover and in mountain glaciers have occurred despite increased snowfall in many cases, implicating increased air temperatures or other local processes acting on snow and ice dynamics. To a large extent, greenhouse gases are believed to be responsible for global air temperature increase, but they are clearly only one of the many factors that account for the observe!

Short-lived atmospheric species like Methane, Ozone and/or black-carbon aerosols have contributed to past climate warming. Particulate matter (PM) often contains both light absorbing and light scattering components and through their hygroscopic properties modulate the cloud microphysical properties and hence influence the radiative properties of the clouds. Anthropogenic modification of cloud microphysical properties through changes in aerosol properties may also affect the life cycle and precipitation characteristics of clouds, thus influencing the hydrological cycle and mass balance of glaciers.

Light absorbing aerosols, such as black carbon soot and dust, can impact the radiation balance in snow and ice covered regions both by absorbing solar energy in the atmosphere as well as by depositing to the surface and modifying the albedo. Although light absorbing aerosols may be responsible to some extent due to the changing cryosphere over the past decades, their effects remain difficult to quantify.

Reducing the emissions of short-lived aerosol species may have the double benefit of reducing global warming and improving air quality in some regions of the world. It may also propagate to limiting the changes in the hydrological cycle through reduced melting of the cryosphere. However, essential knowledge is still lacking about important processes, especially connected with the radiative properties of light-absorbing particles, emission patterns and strengths, aerosol-cloud interactions and precipitation, and linkages with the cryospheric and hydrologic systems. Overall, our current lack of understanding of many of these processes adds substantial uncertainty to predicting future scenarios based on changes in anthropogenic emissions.

The XXth edition of the Alpine Summer School aims to present the current state-of-knowledge concerning the effect of short-lived species, in particular light absorbing aerosols, on climate with an emphasis on our current state of knowledge as well as future mitigation strategies. The course will discuss the specific links between short-lived species in particular aerosol and their absorbing components and the cryosphere dynamics, with a focus on regions of the world that are facing dramatic changes including South-Asia, the Hindu-Kush-Karakorum-Himalaya, and the Arctic. These regions are important examples where efficacies of the radiative forcing from short-lived species and particularly aerosols are expected to have a significant impact.

The course will address the very fundamental processes by which aerosols influence climate and the cryosphere, but also the more practical issues linked to impact, adaptation and mitigation of global changes in the two regions of interest. In addition to the lectures, a significant emphasis will be put on interactions amongst the instructors and students in order to kindle excitement in future researchers and generate research collaborations amongst the course attendees.

Please write to the scientific secretary ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) if you need further information.

The registration deadline is May 7th, 2012.

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Location : Valsavarenche, Austria


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