Dr Paul Connolly - personal details
Role: Reader in Atmospheric Physics
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
The University of Manchester
- School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
- EART10160: Scientific Problem Solving, semester 1
- EART20170: Data analysis and Statistics (taught up until 2016)
- EART30351: Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics
- EART60101: Measuring and Predicting (atmospheric part)
I graduated from UMIST in 2001 gaining a 1st class degree in Pure and Applied Physics and being awarded course prize for best performance in all three years.
At the start of 2006 I gained my PhD at UMIST, which investigated the impacts that particulate pollution can have on a tropical cumulo-nimbus (Cb) known as Hector. The work found that there are optimal amounts of pollution that increase the frequency of upper level cloudiness in the tropics. I find this interesting as it is related to the area of aerosol-cloud interactions in stratus clouds where we believe that the effect is that increased aerosol concentrations result in more reflective clouds. The modelling results for tropical cumulo-nimbus clouds suggest that if they form in polluted regions the clouds would become less reflective and hence have a warming effect on the planet. This idea is now receiving wider recognition and is now becoming recognised as an important indirect effect of aerosols on clouds. More recently my research has shown that aerosols do indeed significantly affect such strong convection.
Throughout my PhD I took part in numerous field projects, which involved measing high level cirrus outflow in Darwin, Australia; measuring aerosol-cloud interactions on the Jungfraujoch; understanding ice nucleation in a state-of-the-art laboratory facility in Germany; and measuring ice in cumulus clouds from the FAAM BAe-146 research aircraft. In 2004, I visited the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, which served to strengthen my interests in understanding ice processes in clouds.
Since joining SEAES I have become involved in the construction of a large cylindrical cloud chamber known as MICC (the Manchester Ice Cloud Chamber). This is situated on three floors of the Simon Building and is currently being used to investigate the formation of airborne snow crystals. We do this by artificially producing a cloud and seeding it with ice crystals. Techniques are being developed to record the growth rates of an ice crystal population with time by vapour deposition, aggregation and riming (accretion of liquid drops onto the ice). We recently published a paper that used the chamber to quantify the aggregation efficiency of ice crystals.
I am also interested in understanding how efficient minerals are at nucleating ice from supercooled water. Contrary to popular belief, ice does not form from pure water once the temperature is colder than 0 C. It requires an energy barrier for crystallisation to be overcome. In fact, in pure water this will not happen until temperatures are colder than -35C. However, certain minerals that are present in the earth's atmosphere can decrease the height of this barrier and so can nucleate ice at much warmer temperatures. Understanding how this happens, and how this impacts on clouds and precipitation is a key area of interest in my work.