This photo, taken from space, shows the Southeast Pacific Ocean on the left, with patches of stratocumulus clouds along the coast of South American. Moving to the right (east) one can see the low lying coastal Atacama Desert and the Andes Mountain Range.
Click on image for full size
Image Courtesy of NASA
What are VOCALS' scientific questions?
Scientists in the VOCALS program seek to better understand the climate in the Southeast Pacific Ocean region and the global climate system. They wonder how changes in the oceans impact the lower atmosphere and the clouds that are found there. They also want to understand how the clouds affect the ocean itself.
Scientific questions can be answered by doing experiments in the field as well as in the laboratory. The VOCALS scientists want to test: (1) how precipitation affects the kinds and amounts of stratus clouds over the southeast Pacific Ocean, (2) how aerosol pollution affects the formation of stratus clouds and the drizzle they produce, and (3) how the ocean, atmosphere, and land interact with each other in the Southeast Pacific Region.
In addition, the scientists wish to find out how accurate satellite
observations are of the region. They compare satellite data collected miles above Earth with measurements made by instruments on ships, on airplanes, and on land. This will help them to learn how well their models represent the weather and climate in the region. This is very important to understanding what role the Southeast Pacific plays in the larger global climate system.
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