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Cirrus clouds
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Ronald L Holle

Clouds are Clues to Climate!
News story originally written on August 13, 2002

Cirrus clouds are thin and wispy. They are the highest clouds in the sky and are made of millions of tiny ice crystals! They don't make big thunderstorms or drop tons of snow, but these little clouds may be big clues to how Earth's climate is changing.

Scientists looked at the world from above with satellites and saw that there were more cirrus clouds than usual. They think that more cirrus clouds form when the Earth is warmer. Since global warming is raising the temperature of Earth over many years, there are more cirrus clouds today than many years ago.

Cirrus clouds can affect Earth's climate and scientist hope to learn how the clouds do this. Cirrus clouds may warm the planet by trapping heat like a blanket. Or, they may cool the planet by blocking light like a sun umbrella.

To understand the clouds, scientists will make measurements of cirrus clouds from many different levels in the atmosphere as well as looking at the clouds from above with satellites. Hopefully, their research will help us understand how cirrus clouds may change Earth's climate in the future.


Last modified August 14, 2002 by Lisa Gardiner.

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