Climate change scientists research Pacific clouds
by David Masters
October 27, 2008
A team of over 200 scientists from around the world is going on a cloud-hopping mission across the Pacific Ocean to work out the effects of cloud cover on climate change.
Researchers from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) and other institutions around the world, will use research aircraft drafted in from the UK Met Office to fly across the Pacific from their base in Chile.
The research, part of a £3 million project to make climate change prediction models more accurate, will assess how clouds above the Pacific keep the ocean cool.
Clouds over the Pacific can cover areas larger than the USA. They act like an enormous mirror, reflecting sunlight back into space and preventing the sun’s energy from reaching the earth’s surface.
Specially developed cloud and dust probes will be fixed to the planes and will take measurements to work out how the clouds form, how much of the sun’s heat they reflect, and what determines the cloud’s lifetime.
Of particular interest to the researchers is whether pollution from mining activity along the coast of Latin America affects the clouds.
Professor Hugh Coe, who is leading the research, said scientists know that the clouds have a ‘very significant role’ in climate change, yet current climate change models fail to reflect this.
Coe believes the research is a good opportunity to take advantage of cutting edge technology in the fight against climate change.
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