The NSF Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE) focuses on improving our understanding of how aerosol particles impact the environment, air quality, and climate. Led by Prof. Kimberly Prather, UC San Diego Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry, the Center’s goal is to understand critical details regarding the chemistry of aerosols.

breaking wave

Side-view of a breaking wave in the CAICE Ocean-Atmosphere Facility at the SIO Hydraulics Lab.

Aerosols are microscopic bits of dust, soot, and sea spray – the most poorly understood component of Earth’s atmosphere. Aerosols play a significant role in our environment, influencing human health – even how we breathe – while also affecting clouds and precipitation, thereby impacting our water supply. Aerosol particles are emitted by a wide range of sources, including coal-fired power plants, vehicles, wildfires, volcanoes, desert dust, and sea spray from the ocean.  The impact of aerosols on our climate and environment represents not only a scientific grand challenge, but also an international challenge, because these small particles can be transported around the globe in a matter of days or weeks.


CAICE will be using state-of-the-art tools to learn more about the complex chemistry that occurs on aerosol particles.

Using computational tools and state-of-the-art instrumentation, including a novel approach with a real-world ‘beaker’ to generate aerosols, CAICE brings together a strong research team to focus on the critical area of aerosol chemistry, one of the largest current gaps in our understanding of climate change. This Center is building the next generation of tools for studying complex chemical processes as well as the fundamental theories to explain these processes.

This highly interdisciplinary Center was recognized for its innovation and focus on a scientific grand challenge through a $20 million award by the National Science Foundation. This allows CAICE scientists, along with other researchers from around the world, to advance our understanding of the factors perturbing atmospheric composition and climate.