Atmosphere is a very dynamic region of the earth. Human activities continuously generate particulate matter, commonly known as aerosols, and many other polluting gases, like CO, CO2, CH4, CFC, NOx, etc from vehicle exhausts, industrial emissions and other sources. They cause radiative changes and chemical imbalances in the atmosphere that lead to climate change and affect the entire life on the globe, through equity and economics of nations. Next to space essential for the life forms to manifest themselves, the air we breathe is the fundamental need for life to survive on this planet. Green house gases and their role in modulating regional climate are well established. Earth’s atmosphere is no longer indolent to the capricious dump of pollutants into it by any nation as its brunt is borne by all, mainly by its neighbours. Natural green house gases like water vapour readjust global rainfall patterns while carbon dioxide sinks less over the diminishing green cover of the globe. More lethal and noxious gases like carbon monoxide (CO) and surface ozone has been on the increase in the last century. Both have anthropogenic components from the industries, transport and forest sectors. Therefore a close audit and stocktaking their abundance and estimating residence time of these pollutants is vital to the global green economy. The programmes of ASD have been formulated to address these issues.
The amount of solar UV-B radiation reaching the earth’s surface, rainfall intensity and rain drop size distribution and the impact of orography on rainfall and climate are areas that deserve attention. Global scientific concerns like climate change, its anthropogenic causes and mitigation methods to contain them are on the rise. Landuse changes and urban development also cause changes in microclimate and introduce air and noise pollution. Thus, the atmosphere is exposed to dynamic interferences from human activities. Therefore, a study of atmospheric dynamics in terms of climate and climate change is very pertinent. Regular monitoring of solar UV-B radiation reaching the earth’s surface and atmospheric minor species such as methane, carbon monoxide and surface ozone helps in understanding diurnal changes and their impact on regional climate change.
In India, Kerala state is known to have relatively high lightning incidence. The nature of spatial and temporal distribution of past incidents, type of thunderclouds which cause lightning, the topography, proximity to a mountain range and sea point to the possibility of the mountain weather aiding in Cumulonimbus cloud formation. A study on the role of mountain weather in convective cloud formation in the nearby Western Ghats mountain range could lead to a better understanding of the lightning incidences in the State.
It is imperative that outcomes of research in basic sciences should translate to the benefit of mankind. Meeting these challenges and catering to the needs of the society is a growing concern. Biophotonics research that deals with the interaction of radiation with biosphere shows great potential in earth and life sciences research, such as in remote sensing the health of corals and vegetation, non-invasive detection of (pre)cancers and targeted antimicrobial and cancer therapy. It is expected that this fast-evolving sector of scientific convergence, integrating laser, optical physics, medical science and biology would go a long way in improving the quality of life of human beings.