Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Unexpected Discovery Could Impact On Future Climate Models

Date:
February 11, 2009
Source:
University of Hertfordshire
Summary:
Astronomers have made an unexpected find using a polarimeter (an instrument used to measure the wave properties of light) that has the potential to affect future climate models.

University of Hertfordshire astronomers have made an unexpected find using a polarimeter (an instrument used to measure the wave properties of light) funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), that has the potential to affect future climate models.

The astronomers were making observations of the stars in search of new planets after mounting the ‘PlanetPol’ (polarimeter they designed and constructed to take extremely sensitive readings) on the William Herschel Telescope (part of the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes) in La Palma in the Canary Islands, when their measurements became affected by a layer of dust.

The presence of the dust itself, which satellite images and modelling of the dust’s movement show had originated from the Sahara and the Sahel, was not a surprise, but its behaviour was. Scientists normally assume that aerosols, including mineral dust, have random orientation in the atmosphere, but the team members say the polarizing affect the dust was having on the light could only be the result of dust particles being vertically aligned.

Furthermore, electric fields that are now thought to be responsible for this phenomenon are likely to affect the transport of dust over long distances. For the first time this might explain why large Saharan dust grains can travel as far as the UK instead of falling to the ground long before.

This could impact on climate theories because atmospheric dust is a significant source of uncertainty for scientists trying to model the climate. ‘If it’s proven the dust is affected by electric fields, elements of current climate models may have to be re-worked with this new information, to remain accurate’, explains Joseph Ulanowski, Centre for Atmospheric and Instrumentation Research (CAIR) at the University of Hertfordshire.

Climate models are extremely complex and involve many other influences, so further research will now be carried out to see how significant a find this dust phenomenon is. CAIR will now join a Met office-led campaign in the Middle East in the spring 2009 which presents an opportunity to investigate this further.

Professor James Hough, Director of Astronomy Research at the University of Hertfordshire said, ‘It’s been fascinating to see how we have been able to use astronomical observations to learn far more about dust in the Earth’s atmosphere, especially as we first considered the Saharan dust event to be a real nuisance and of no value to us at all.’


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Hertfordshire. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Hertfordshire. "Unexpected Discovery Could Impact On Future Climate Models." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090210134440.htm>.
University of Hertfordshire. (2009, February 11). Unexpected Discovery Could Impact On Future Climate Models. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090210134440.htm
University of Hertfordshire. "Unexpected Discovery Could Impact On Future Climate Models." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090210134440.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Iceland Lowers Aviation Alert on Volcano

Iceland Lowers Aviation Alert on Volcano

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) Iceland has lowered its aviation alert on its largest volcano after a fresh eruption on a nearby lava field prompted authorities to enforce a flight ban for several hours. Duration: 01:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lightning Hurts 3 on NYC Beach

Lightning Hurts 3 on NYC Beach

AP (Sep. 1, 2014) A lightning strike injured three people on a New York City beach on Sunday. The storms also delayed flights and interrupted play at the US Open tennis tournament. (Sept. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thailand Totters Towards Waste Crisis

Thailand Totters Towards Waste Crisis

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) Fears are mounting in Bangkok that poor planning and lax law enforcement are tipping Thailand towards a waste crisis. Duration: 01:21 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Melting Ice Shelves Drive Rapid Antarctic Sea Level Rise

Melting Ice Shelves Drive Rapid Antarctic Sea Level Rise

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) A study of almost 20 years' worth of satellite images shows Antarctic sea levels are on the rise as ice shelves continue to melt. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins