Popular Science

February 23, 2012

Earth’s Clouds Are Getting Lower, Which Could Be a Good Thing

Share

Earth’s clouds are sinking lower in the sky, with fewer clouds at high altitudes and lower cloudtops in general, says a new analysis of satellite data. The coming fog means that Earth will cool down more efficiently — so the lowering of clouds could slow the effects of global warming.

This potential negative feedback loop is evident in about 10 years of satellite data, so not much at all in the grand scheme of climate research. But it’s a hint that something interesting is happening, according to Roger Davies, the lead researcher on a new paper based on findings from NASA’s Terra spacecraft.

Related Articles

Lasers Could Create Clouds, and Perhaps Rain, on DemandChinese Government Plans to Cause Ten Percent More Rain By 2015Is Pollution Slowing Global Warming?

Tags

Science, Rebecca Boyle, climate change, clouds, earth satellites, global warming, nasa, Terra remote-sensing satelliteSeveral NASA assets look at clouds in a variety of ways, measuring their size, structure, formation, altitude and other vitals. The data is important for weather forecasting as well as long-term climate forecasting. Among other instruments, the Terra satellite contains nine cameras at different angles that produce 3-D images of clouds around the world. The satellite launched in 1999 and the new study examined its first decade of data.

The data show that global average cloud height declined by roughly one percent over the decade, decreasing by around 100 to 130 feet. This was mostly the result of fewer clouds forming at the highest altitudes, according to a NASA release. Scientists are not sure why this happened, but it might be due to a change in atmospheric circulation patterns at high altitudes, Davies said. But they do know what it could mean: A drop in cloud height would allow more heat to escape the Earth into space, reducing the overall temperature of the planet. So differences in cloud formation, wrought by a warming climate, could help counteract the effects of that warming.

For all their impact on our weather and our moods, clouds are one of the most poorly understood variables in climate change models. Terra and other cloud-watchers, notably CloudSat, aim to improve cloud representation in those models. Terra is scheduled to keep gathering this type of data for another decade, so maybe by 2020 we’ll know what the clouds are up to.

[ScienceDaily]

Share





 
 

 
 

Stephen Lee -Star Trek: The Next Generation star dies at age 58 – Daily Mail

By Jennifer Pearson for MailOnline Published: 15:56 EST, 30 August 2014 | Updated: 16:55 EST, 30 August 2014 10 View comments Stephen Lee, a character actor who had dozens of roles in movies and on television, died on August 14...
by Geek Staff
0

 
 
 

‘Star Trek 3′ movie release date set: Third movie due for release in 2016 – Ecumenical News

Updates on the upcoming third Star Trek film are finally out, serving as good news for ‘trekkers’ and ‘trekkies’ worldwide. According to director Roberto Orci, the first draft of Star Trek ...
by Geek Staff
0

 
 
 

Step Lightly: The Techies Update

Just when you thought it was safe to walk, well, anywhere. Techies are finally coming to Dota 2, along with a host of new features and Compendium stretch goals, including the new All Random Deathmatch mode and the All-He...
by Geek Staff
0