Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists fly through the clouds to piece together climate puzzle

Date:
March 16, 2011
Source:
NASA
Summary:
As scientists try to better understand and put together the puzzle of Earth's climate, the role of clouds remains one of the most important missing pieces. Researchers from four NASA centers, other U.S. agencies and several colleges and universities are set to participate in the Mid-latitude Airborne Cirrus Properties Experiment (MACPEX), an airborne field campaign based at Ellington Field, Texas, that aims to answer some major questions about clouds.

The WB-57 airplane can fly as high as 63,000 feet.
Credit: NASA

As scientists try to better understand and put together the puzzle of Earth's climate, the role of clouds remains one of the most important missing pieces.

Related Articles


Researchers from four NASA centers, other U.S. agencies and several colleges and universities are set to participate in the Mid-latitude Airborne Cirrus Properties Experiment (MACPEX), an airborne field campaign based at Ellington Field, Texas, that aims to answer some major questions about clouds.

The campaign is scheduled to begin March 14, with science flights onboard the NASA WB-57 from March 28 to April 29.

"Initially it started as a question about the real characteristics of ice clouds in the lowest portion of the atmosphere, the upper troposphere. Past observations had shown ice particles are a lot smaller and lot more numerous than people thought they were," said Ken Jucks, Upper Atmosphere Program manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

"More recent measurements done at the tropics have shown that may not actually be true, but no measurements have been made at the mid-latitudes."

Energy Balance

The campaign will study the composition of cirrus clouds -- high, wispy clouds made of ice -- and their relationship to Earth's "energy budget," the combination of incoming and outgoing energy or heat.

"Recent advances in instrumentation greatly improve our ability to accurately measure the sizes and numbers of ice crystals in cirrus clouds," said MACPEX project scientist Eric Jensen of NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. "This information is critically needed to evaluate and improve representations of cirrus in climate models. We anticipate that MACPEX will ultimately lead to improved accuracy of climate predictions."

In addition to Ames and Headquarters, NASA facilities involved in the campaign are the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

"Liquid water measurements and measurements of water in its gas form will be important. We will be trying to get those observations at the same time as particle observations because we need those as well to understand cloud formation processes," Jucks said.

Langley in the Sky

MACPEX marks the first time Langley's Diode Laser Hygrometer (DLH) will fly onboard the WB-57 to measure water vapor in cirrus clouds. "This instrument usually flies on the DC-8 but the WB-57 can get up to 63,000 feet up in the air where the cirrus clouds are located," said Glenn Diskin, DLH principal investigator.

Other instruments in the WB-57 payload include Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Aircraft Laser Infrared Absorption Spectrometer (ALIAS), which will measure isotopes in water, and Chemical Ionization Mass Spectrometer (CIMS) will measure water vapor.

Science flights during the campaign are being coordinated with observations from NASA's A-Train satellites, including CALIPSO, CloudSat, Aqua, and Aura.

The A-Train is a constellation of satellites that travel one behind the other, along the same track, as they orbit Earth. By combining different sets of nearly simultaneous observations from these satellites, scientists are able to gain additional insights into the working of Earth system. During MACPEX, researchers will synchronize the flights with the A-Train to validate satellite with in situ measurements and evaluate remote-sensing measurements.

"Aircraft measurements are evolving, making it possible for us to evaluate and hopefully to lower the uncertainty in the satellite observations," said Patrick Minnis, principal investigator for the satellite component of the mission.

Campaign partners include Computer Sciences Corp. in Falls Church, Va.; University of Utah in Salt Lake City; University of Colorado at Boulder and Denver; Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.; Bay Area Environmental Research Institute in Sonoma, Calif.; NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.; Spec Inc. in Boulder, Colo.; Forschungszentrum Julich in Julich, Germany; and the National Center Atmosphere Research in Boulder, Colo.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

NASA. "Scientists fly through the clouds to piece together climate puzzle." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110315142526.htm>.
NASA. (2011, March 16). Scientists fly through the clouds to piece together climate puzzle. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110315142526.htm
NASA. "Scientists fly through the clouds to piece together climate puzzle." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110315142526.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers at Northwestern University are repurposing Blu-ray movies for better solar panel technology thanks to the discs' internal structures. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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