Biological Particles in High-Altitude Clouds

It is utter geek-speak, but scientists have finally been able to directly observe biological particles in high-altitude clouds.

Why should we care about this? Because:

“If we understand the sources of the particles that nucleate clouds, and their relative abundance, we can determine their impact on climate,” said Pratt, lead author of the paper.

The effects of tiny airborne particles called aerosols on cloud formation have been some of the most difficult aspects of weather and climate for scientists to understand.

In climate change science, which derives many of its projections from computer simulations of climate phenomena, the interactions between aerosols and clouds represent what scientists consider the greatest uncertainty in modeling predictions for the future.

Climate models will always be a work in progress. If they were perfect, they would be replicas of the real thing.

Since the whole global warming debate in scientific circles has moved on from “are humans warming the planet”, for which there is ample evidence and general agreement, to the question “what are the risks and and how do we manage them”, this is an important piece of the scientific puzzle.

No doubt this work will spawn a rash of experiments to reproduce and refine the the results. I wish they’d just hurry up!

Photo Credit: NCAR

3 Comments Posted

  1. Well Kelpie, it’s a little of both. But it is not “junk” to be added to the computer models, more like a missing piece of the puzzle. The models will always remain poor approximations. That’s the nature of models. It doesn’t mean that they are not useful. Just ask an economist. Their models are appalling, and require such a large amount of mathematical gymnastics to make them remotely useful that scientists blush. nevertheless, some of their modelling has taught us something.

  2. Sure am Frog; but it took me an age to download the link, add to that i am a slow reader.
    Slow asimilator too.
    I’ll let you know but in the mean time.
    Does this mean if we get enough of the right stuff stick it in a plane & dump it on the clouds we can make the desert bloom?
    Thought we tried that.
    Or is it more junk to add to computer models that never quite get it right?

    I am off to think about it & look for other links.
    Thanks Frog

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