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A better understanding of how cirrus clouds form

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A better understanding of how cirrus clouds form

New research by a team led by scientists at Purdue University has found that trees and plants play an important role in the formation of cirrus clouds, a discovery that has implications for agriculture, urban development and modeling of climate change. Credit: J. Duclos via Unsplash.com

New research provides insights into how cirrus clouds form, with implications for agriculture, urban development and climate change predictions. The study shows that trees and plants play an important role in influencing rainfall and global climate change.

An international team combined theory, field measurements and laboratory experiments to develop a better understanding of cloud formation.

Daniel Cziczo, professor and head of the Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Planet Sciences at Purdue University, said that, surprisingly, scientists previously did not have a full understanding of how cirrus clouds form.

“These clouds have an effect on climate and precipitation, which we humans care deeply about,” he said. “This article tells us how particles in the atmosphere, whether of natural or human origin, can impact clouds in a way we didn’t understand before.”

Scientists knew that particles in the air from smoke and car emissions would affect the creation of clouds, but this new research highlights the importance of volatile emissions from plants and organic material, which scientists call “aerosols. organic secondary “.

“These data will help us better predict how activities like deforestation or reforestation will affect the world’s climate, because these secondary organic aerosols are derived from plants,” Cziczo said. “If the levels of these organic aerosols change, we will now have a better understanding of the effects this will have and we will be able to use this information in global climate models.”

Cziczo and the other authors of the paper were able to take the data provided by other researchers on the project and use it to create cirrus-like ice clouds in his Purdue lab, then analyze the results using a specialized spectrometry instrument.

The research was published in Nature Communications.

“Everyone has heard of greenhouse gases and global warming, but I don’t think many understand that clouds are also a big player in climate change,” Cziczo said. “Clouds also affect rainfall, which obviously plays an important role in agriculture and human activities.

The cloud-forming mechanism described in the magazine’s paper highlights the intricate interplay between human activities, the environment, and natural resources, such as rainfall.

“If our water resources change dramatically, it has huge consequences on our food production, land and resource use, things like that. So, we’re really trying to understand both the water cycle and the climate from the point of view. view of the atmosphere “.

Cloud science extends beyond what we see in the sky above us, Cziczo said, and the same chemistry and physics are at work in clouds on other planets.

“On Mars it snows and Mars has clouds. We have used some of our laboratory equipment that we use to understand the clouds on Earth and we have adapted them to Martian conditions or conditions on Saturn’s moon Titan using data from the probes.”


Thin tropical clouds cool the weather


More information:
Martin J. Wolf et al. A biogenic secondary organic aerosol source of nucleating particles of cirrus ice, Nature Communications (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-020-18424-6

Provided by Purdue University

Quote: A Better Understanding of How Cirrus Clouds Form (2020, October 2) Retrieved October 2, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-10-cirrus-clouds.html

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