The environmental challenges experienced in our society today are of a complexity that cannot be dealt with adequately within the boundaries of established scientific disciplines and increasingly rely on multidisciplinary approaches. This is certainly true for complex systems such as the earth’s atmosphere, where a comprehensive understanding requires knowledge in physics and chemistry, as well as other enabling scientific fields. This is also true for the atmospheres of other planets (e.g.- Mars) that may be of great importance to future generations.
Advancement in measurement and understanding of atmospheres and solutions to today’s global atmospheric problems will require highly trained individuals with an integrated knowledge of atmospheric systems, and the ability to communicate complex issues to decision makers. IACPES will create a future generation of scientists whose expertise will transcend the narrow focus usually granted in a conventional graduate program.
Atmospheric chemists and atmospheric physicists often work in very different worlds. Atmospheric physicists investigate transport, meteorology, dynamics and conduct spectroscopic measurement of small molecules (usually 1-6 atoms), while atmospheric chemists worry about the measurement of larger molecules via alternate analytical methods, complex chemical mechanisms and transformations of these molecules in both the gas phase and condensed phases as well as health and environmental impacts of these pollutants.
Other barriers exist, as exemplified by the difference between experimentalists and modelers. The former attempt to understand individual processes through isolation and careful experimentation in the lab or in the field, while the modeler attempts to describe complex processes and their impacts through the coding of a vast number of chemical and physical processes into computer simulations. Similarly, ground based and satellite based measurement methods are very different. Ground based measurement methods targets the lower troposphere, often very specific regions where human exposure is of paramount importance and weight, size or power requirements of instruments are of limited importance. The satellite based measurement methods is usually limited to spectroscopic methods, and focuses on global distributions of pollutants. Airborne measurement systems fall somewhere between.
Investigation of planetary atmospheres, while usually limited to the world of small molecule spectroscopy via remote sounding, has just recently begun to revert to other analytical techniques such as mass spectrometry and wet chemistry on lander missions. This will open other worlds to chemists, as the 6-8 atom molecular barrier is exceeded. Where these barriers exist in atmospheric science, they tend to fractionate the science community and the research they perform.