Terms of Reference

Research activity in atmospheric chemistry has increased markedly in the past decade. To a large extent this has occurred because some of the important problems in the atmospheric sciences deal with the impact of man's activities on the composition and dynamics of the atmosphere. It has also resulted from a realization that the atmosphere is an important part of many geochemical and biochemical cycles. Furthermore, the atmosphere plays a key role in the transport, chemical transformation, and wet and dry deposition of pollutants over various distance scales. Interest in atmospheric radioactivity has declined over the past two decades due to the greatly diminished testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. There remains, however, a continuous research and monitoring effort in response to the worldwide proliferation of nuclear-power-generating installations.

Research in these areas must deal with both the chemistry and the meteorology of atmospheric processes. The cycles of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, the oxides of nitrogen and sulfur, and other trace gases are of special interest and importance because they involve the ocean and the biosphere and are affected by man's activity on local, regional, and global scales. Inorganic and organic trace components of atmospheric particles can now be measured with great sensitivity and precision, and some of these reveal complex chemical behavior in the atmosphere that should be thoroughly understood in order to evaluate man's impact on their large-scale cycles. However, present measurement and monitoring programs on both regional and global scales are often inadequate for support of air-chemistry research and documentation of secular trends of various substances in the atmosphere.

These programs require constant evaluation for future development. Atmospheric circulation and the budget of water vapor have been and continue to be areas of importance in atmospheric science amenable to study by techniques of atmospheric chemistry and radioactivity. Atmospheric chemistry is a key component of the budget of trace gases, which exert a major influence on the earth's radiation budget and on the stratospheric ozone layer. The chemistry and meteorology of acid deposition is of fundamental importance in developing strategies to mitigate environmental effects from emissions of sulfur and nitrogen dioxides. The physics and chemistry or aerosols have direct application to cloud physics, atmospheric optics and electricity, and air pollution.

These are examples of current areas of research interest in atmospheric chemistry.  Techniques employed to advantage in the study of atmospheric chemistry and/or in the study of atmospheric phenomena by means of chemistry or radioactivity include the following: measurement of composition (including patterns and changes of composition) of air and/or rainwater, cloudwater, etc., on various spatial and temporal scales, in conjunction with pertinent meteorological variables; measurement of stable isotopic composition and natural and artificial radioactivity; use of tracers (deliberately introduced or tracers of convenience) to determine transport, dispersion, transformation and/or deposition; measurements of atmospheric optics, including visibility; and micrometeorological studies of atmosphere-surface exchange of gases and particles. Remote sensing, including measurements from satellites, is becoming increasingly valuable. Numerical modeling plays a key role in the interpretation of measurements and in the study of atmospheric chemistry phenomena on all spatial scales.

The purpose and functions of the Committee on Atmospheric Chemistry are to

  1. give advice to the Society in matters concerning atmospheric chemistry and radioactivity and to assist the Society in formulating statements and positions on related issues; 
  2. participate in and organize scientific meetings and symposia in atmospheric chemistry and radioactivity in order to stimulate research and to discuss and clarify pertinent problems;
  3. facilitate dialogue between chemists and meteorologists concerning interdisciplinary research and education in the chemistry of the atmosphere;
  4. represent the Society, upon request of the Council, in matters of atmospheric chemistry; and 
  5. nominate deserving individuals for AMS Awards and Fellows.

The committee consists of a number of scientists active in the field of atmospheric chemistry and radioactivity, chosen so as to give fair representation of the various aspects of the field.