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Cloud brightness enlightens effects of pollution

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April 27, 2017 Share This!

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RICHLAND, Wash. — Small particles of pollution and dust make clouds brighter, and now scientists have figured out a way to better use data to improve our understanding of how this process affects the planet's climate.

Reporting this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists have developed a way to use satellite data about today's clouds to better understand what happened in preindustrial times and to strengthen their computer models of what will happen in the future.

The scientists developed a new way to calculate the brightness of clouds that are created when water droplets form on small particles. The particles can come from many sources, including blowing dust, particles produced from power plants or cars and trucks, and ash thrown up into the sky from volcanoes.

The clouds that form around such particles are brighter compared to other clouds and reflect more sunlight, a factor for scientists as they model what will happen in the future.

Steve Ghan, Hailong Wang and Kai Zhang of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are among the authors of the study, which was led by Edward Gryspeerdt of Imperial College. More details about the work are available in a news story from Imperial College.



Tags: Environment, Fundamental Science, Climate Science, Atmospheric Science, Aerosols

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