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