Stratocumulus clouds and light drizzle over the ocean in the Southeast Pacific.
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Image Courtesy of Kimberly Comstock/University of Washington
Clouds and Precipitation in the Southeast Pacific
The Southeast Pacific region contains the world's largest set of stratocumulus clouds. These clouds extend for almost 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) off the west coast of South America from central Chile to the equator. They form on aerosols that are produced naturally and by human activity along the coast.
The Southeast Pacific doesn't receive much precipitation. Drizzle tends to fall in the early morning and a lot of it evaporates before reaching the Earth's surface. Further off the coast of South America, the clouds tend to produce more drizzle. These clouds also contain areas of broken clouds called "pockets of open cells" (POCs).
Scientists participating in the VOCALS field campaign will be exploring the interactions between clouds, precipitation, the ocean, and the land in order to learn more about these processes. In particular, it seems that POCs and drizzle might play an important role in how clouds impact climate.
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