Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Kara D. Lamb

Research Interests

  • In situ measurements of absorbing aerosols in the Earth's atmosphere
  • Black carbon optical properties, atmospheric evolution, and lifetime
  • Cirrus cloud microphysics and isotopic water vapor
  • Atmospheric measurement techniques

Current Research

My current research focuses on the sources, optical properties, and atmospheric lifetime of black carbon (BC). BC is an aerosol (small particulate matter) emitted during incomplete combustion processes, from both natural (forest fires) and anthropogenic (vehicle exhaust) sources. BC is considered the most important short-lived climate forcer, since it strongly absorbs solar radiation, directly heating the atmosphere. To understand the sources and atmospheric evolution of BC in the atmosphere, I have deployed the NOAA single particle soot photometer (SP2) during two research campaigns:

  • KORUS-AQ - NASA DC-8 aircraft study sampling over the South Korean peninsula in May/June of 2016. For this campaign we deployed the dual humidified SP2 (HD-SP2) to measure BC atmospheric abundance, internal mixing, and hygroscopicity of materials internally mixed with BC.
  • NOAA FIREX Firelab - Laboratory study at the USDA FireSciences laboratory in Missoula, MT focusing on the optical properties of biomass burning aerosols.

Since East Asia is the most significant anthropogenic source region for BC, my research during the KORUS-AQ campaign has focused on providing new observational constraints on the atmospheric abundance and vertical distribution of BC in East Asia. The optical properties of BC evolve in the atmosphere, impacting both its climate effects and atmospheric lifetime. The KORUS-AQ measurements help us to understand the atmospheric evolution of these aerosols in this important source region.

Another research direction I am pursuing is how the SP2 can be used to measure iron oxide aerosols (and applying these methods to past aircraft campaigns). Anthropogenic emissions of iron oxide aerosols may be an important source of atmospheric absorption, as well as provide an additional source of particulate iron to the oceans (where they could play a role in the biogeochemical cycle and impact ocean uptake of CO2). However, the sources and atmospheric abundance of these aerosols is still highly uncertain. Recently I been exploring how advanced data analysis techniques such as machine learning can be used to improve the identification of these aerosols.


Honors and Awards

  • NASA KORUS-AQ Group Achievement Award
  • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (2009)
  • NDSEG Graduate Research Fellowship (2009)

View Publications

  • Sarkozy, LC; Clouser, BW; Lamb, KD; Stutz, EJ; Saathoff, H; Mohler, O; Ebert, V; Moyer, EJ. (Apr 2020). The Chicago Water Isotope Spectrometer (ChiWIS-lab): A tunable diode laser spectrometer for chamber-based measurements of water vapor isotopic evolution during cirrus formation. REVIEW OF SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENTS , 91(4). 10.1063/1.5139244
  • Clouser, BW; Lamb, KD; Sarkozy, LC; Habig, J; Ebert, V; Saathoff, H; Mohler, O; Moyer, EJ. (Jan 2020). No anomalous supersaturation in ultracold cirrus laboratory experiments. ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY AND PHYSICS , 20(2). 10.5194/acp-20-1089-2020