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How does smoke effect clouds in terms of climate? NASA flies to Africa to find out!

NASA's Observations of Aerosols Above Clouds and their Interactions (ORACLES) mission will observe and measure how these particles interact with clouds and change their ability to warm or cool the planet.


How does smoke effect clouds in terms of climate? NASA flies to Africa to find out!
Image courtesy: NASA

New Delhi: The world's climate is constantly changing and its predictions are becoming more and more unstable.

This unpredictable nature will probably become more stubborn in the future and that has got scientists worried.

Because of this, NASA scientists and two research aircrafts are on their way to a unique natural laboratory off the Atlantic coast of southwest Africa to study a major unknown feature in future climate prediction – climate effects of smoke on clouds.

As per NASA, the coast of Namibia is one of three places on Earth with persistent low-level clouds, and the only such location with a steady supply of tiny aerosol particles in the form of smoke from inland fires that mix with the clouds.

NASA's Observations of Aerosols Above Clouds and their Interactions (ORACLES) mission will observe and measure how these particles interact with clouds and change their ability to warm or cool the planet.

"This is the perfect natural laboratory to study aerosol-cloud interactions, which are some of the largest uncertainties in the prediction of future climate," said Jens Redemann, ORACLES principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, NASA reported.

"Human activities currently are estimated to be responsible for perhaps half of all the aerosol particles in the atmosphere," said Robert Wood, a cloud scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle and ORACLES deputy principal investigator. "Smoke particles both reflect sunlight back to space, thus cooling the Earth, and absorb sunlight, which has the opposite effect of warming the Earth. When aerosols encounter clouds, they also change the properties of the clouds they are ingested into.”

NASA further explained that, understanding which effect is dominant, and under what conditions, is essential for improving the regional and global computer models that predict what may occur with future climate change. Changes in the properties of the cloud layer caused by aerosols could also have an effect on regional coastal fisheries by altering the amount of sunlight reaching the ocean surface that drives currents and ocean upwelling.

From Zee News

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