Scientists Say: Aerosol

This is a small particle of a liquid or a solid suspended in a gas

a great blue heron stands in morning mist

This great blue heron is standing in morning mist — an aerosol made of tiny drops of water suspended in the air.

Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/Getty Images Plus

Aerosol (noun, “AIR-oh-sawl”)

An aerosol is a tiny particle of a solid or liquid that is suspended in a gas. Usually, this gas is air.

You might have heard of aerosols in the context of pollution or deadly viruses. But there are plenty of natural aerosols in the world. Mist and fog are both aerosols — tiny drops of water suspended in the air.

Of course, people make aerosols too. The smoke from a campfire contains aerosols in the form of tiny particles of soot. Burning fossil fuels to make energy pollutes the air with aerosols. And some diseases — such as measles — can spread as aerosols.

In a sentence

Wildfires can shoot aerosols high into the atmosphere, where they could change the Earth’s climate.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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