Click on image for full size
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.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, as well as books
on science education!
You might also be interested in:
Cirrus clouds are the most common of the High Cloud group. They are made of ice crystals and have long, thin, wispy streamers. Cirrus clouds are usually white and predict fair weather. ...more
It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more
The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on October 29th at 2:19 p.m. EST. The sky was clear and the weather was great. This was the America's 123rd manned space mission. A huge...more
Scientists found a satellite orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is the second one ever! A special telescope allows scientists to look through Earth's atmosphere. The first satellite found was Dactyl....more
The United States wants Russia to put the service module in orbit! The module is part of the International Space Station. It was supposed to be in space over 2 years ago. Russia just sent supplies to the...more
A coronal mass ejection (CME) happened on the Sun last month. The material that was thrown out from this explosion passed the ACE spacecraft. ACE measured some exciting things as the CME material passed...more
Trees and plants are a very important part of this Earth. Trees and plants are nature's air conditioning because they help keep our Earth cool. On a summer day, walking bare-foot on the sidewalk burns,...more