Aerosols and particles

Atmospheric particles are of great significance to both climate and local air quality. Our lack of understanding of how particles affect the atmosphere is a major source of uncertainty in our understanding of climate change. Particulates can contribute to both cooling and warming the Earth, depending on their chemical composition and optical properties. Particles are known as short-lived climate drivers. 

Some of NILU’s central research efforts relate to developing an increased understanding of the effects of particles on climate, and are based on the measurement and characterization of different particles, including their transport, turnover and alteration in the atmosphere. This effort includes:
  • Chemical characterization: inorganic components, elemental carbon (EC), organic carbon (OC) and organic compounds, soot (known as black carbon, BC)
  • Optical properties: the measurement of scattering and absorption of particles, called aerosol optical thickness (AOD), profile measurements showing the vertical distribution of particles in the atmosphere and their properties.
  • Physical characterization: measurement of particle mass, number, size distribution
  • Transportation, spread and distribution in the atmosphere through the use of models, especially FLEXPART and EMEP 
  • Source analysis using models (eg, FLEX PART, EMEP Unified) and source-specific components such as levoglucosan
  • Radiation calculations, to determine the effects of particles on the Earth’s radiation balance

NILU conducts a great deal of measurements at the observatories at Zeppelin and Birkenes. Aerosol profiles are measured at Andøya. Almost all particle data are available at

Read more about: Atmospheric particle sources: