Scientists Make Their Own Clouds To Improve Climate Change Predictions

Posted: May 26 2016, 3:48am CDT | by , Updated: May 27 2016, 8:19am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Scientists Make their Own Clouds to Improve Climate Change Predictions
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The cloud formation discovery will help create more accurate models of predicating and understanding climate change.

A team of researhers from CERN Cloud experiment has discovered a unique way to make more accurate predictions about climate change. The new method will not only improve climate predictions but also enable scientists to understand the phenomenon of global warming more clearly and in unmatchable detail.

To create accurate climate change models, researchers need to add clouds and aerosol particles into the equation as both affect climate change immensely. But understanding how new aerosol particles form and become the seeds for new clouds was challenging.

Researchers used a large chamber to stimulate and track the formation and growth of aerosol particles and clouds they seed. To replicate aerosols, researchers used vapors emitted by the trees and found that new particles can form exclusively by combining tree vapors with oxygen without sulfuric acid to help them along.

Previously, researchers thought that sulfuric acid, a gas abundant in our atmosphere due to burning fossil fuels, is necessary to form cloud-seeding particles. But new research proved it wrong and showed the mechanism by which nature produces small atmospheric particles without the involvement of pollution.

“This softens the idea that there may be many more particles in the atmosphere today due to pollution than there were 1750, and suggests that the pristine pre-industrial climate may have had whiter clouds than presently thought.” Neil Donahue, professor of Chemical Engineering, Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University said.

For many years, clouds remained a source of uncertainty in understanding how man-made carbon emissions are affecting climate change. It was widely believed that cloud covers that can reflect sunlight back to space have created an overall cooling effect. This cooling effect has made it difficult for scientists to understand the underlying sensitivity in relation to rising carbon dioxide levels. However, latest CERN experiment suggests otherwise and the outcome holds promise for improving climate change predications.

Jasper Kirkby, a physicist at CERN who led the experiment said. “The latest experiments suggest that it may have been cloudier in pre-industrial times than previously thought. If this is so, then the masking effect and in turn the warming effects of carbon dioxide might have been overestimated.”

The study was published in Nature Geoscience.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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