Satellite Method Better Predicts Pollutants’ Impacts On Climate Change

By on March 18, 2016

Amazon Tall Tower Observatory in the middle of the Amazon, Brazil. (Credit: Meinrat O. Andreae)

One of many factors influencing climate change is pollution particles from smoke, dust and other sources. In a release from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, scientists show that a new satellite methodology is now capable of better predicting the effects of pollution particles in clouds, an improvement over previous aircraft and ground station measurement techniques.

The pollution particles, also referred to as Cloud Condensation Nuclei, are small enough that they are relatively slow to form raindrops, meaning polluted clouds linger longer and reflect more solar heat than other clouds. In addition, pollution particles can to some degree mitigate global warming by making clouds brighter, better reflecting the sun’s rays and causing a relative cooling. The new methodology allows for better incorporation of these effects into climate change estimates.

Prior to the new methodology, it was difficult to get a global picture of the particles’ abundance and properties. The methodology also provides a better means of measuring cloud-base updraft speeds and quantifying the particles’ ability to make cloud droplets, two factors important in determining the influence the particles have on climate. The new method’s strength was confirmed by comparison to surface measurements.

Top image: Amazon Tall Tower Observatory in the middle of the Amazon, Brazil. (Credit: Meinrat O. Andreae)

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