Click on image for full size
Courtesy of Ronald L. Holle
Clouds, Climate and Cosmic Rays
News story originally written on September 4, 2002
It is well known that our planet is becoming globally warmer, but scientists have long been perplexed why higher levels in the atmosphere have remained cool while the Earth's surface is warming.
Clouds are likely responsible for this phenomenon. "A systematic change in global cloud cover will change the atmospheric heating profile," said Fangqun Yu of the State University of New York at Albany, author of a new study. High clouds reflect sunlight and low clouds retain surface energy, so, increases in amounts of thick, low clouds can warm the surface of the Earth, but not higher levels in the atmosphere.
How might worldwide cloud cover change? Cosmic rays are partially responsible for changes in the patterns of cloudiness in the Earth's atmosphere, warming Earth's surface by generating a blanket of low, thick clouds. With increases in cosmic rays, there are increases in low clouds that warm the surface. Greenhouse gases, whose quantities have been steadily increasing in our atmosphere, increase the impact of cosmic rays. This means that with increased greenhouse gases even more low clouds are produced by the cosmic rays. Said Fangqun Yu, "the cosmic ray-induced global cloud changes could be the long sought mechanism connecting solar and climate variability".
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
on science education, ranging from evolution
, classroom research
, and the need for science and math literacy
You might also be interested in:
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 at 2:19 p.m. EST, October 29th. The sky was clear and the weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit for the Unitied...more
A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more
Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials are demanding an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting...more
During a period of about two days in early May, 1998, the ACE spacecraft was immersed in plasma associated with a coronal mass ejection (CME). The SWICS instrument on ACE, which determines unambiguously...more
J.S. Maini of the Canadian Forest Service has referred to forests as the "heart and lungs of the world." Forests reduce soil erosion, maintain water quality, contribute to atmospheric humidity and cloud...more
In late April through mid-May 2002, all five naked-eye planets are visible simultaneously in the night sky! This is includes Mercury which is generally very hard to see because of its proximity to the...more