Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cloud atlas: Texas A&M scientist maps the meaning of mid-level clouds

24.11.2010
Clouds play a major role in the climate-change equation, but they are the least-understood variable in the sky, observes a Texas A&M University geoscientist, who says mid-level clouds are especially understudied. The professor, Shaima Nasiri, is making those "in-between" clouds the focus of her research, which is being funded by NASA.

Mid-level clouds are so understudied, Nasiri says, that scientists have yet to develop a common nomenclature for them. "We do not have a unified definition, so the scientific community can't look at the statistics with a shared level of understanding. Also, because mid-level clouds are formed either from water droplets or ice crystals or a combination of both, they can be more difficult to model.

"Only in the past few years have we focused on the physical properties of mid-level clouds. This means that previous climate models are incomplete," Nasiri says. "All cloud formations are important tracers in the climate-change equation. But we must accurately define and measure the middle layer before we can have a complete picture."

Nasiri credits recent satellite technology for being the vehicle that gives scientists the facts and figures needed to fold the essence of clouds into climate-change formulas.

"NASA satellites launched over the last few years have helped us identify height and base, and temperature and pressure of mid-level clouds. This has revolutionized atmospheric studies," she says. Called the A Train, a formation of six satellites collects and relays an unprecedented amount of atmospheric data, giving scientists such as Nasiri the ability to see all the way through clouds around the globe.

The Texas A&M geoscientist notes the amount of data received from the satellites is so enormous, that part of her work the last two years has been number crunching, developing algorithms just so she and other scientists could process the information.

Sometimes, mid-level clouds can't be seen or identified from the ground. And the high-flying cirrus layer can obscure them from the air. Altostratus and altocumulus are the common mid-level clouds, Nasiri explains. But the line of demarcation between low, mid-level and high clouds is unclear, a problem for scientists because although clouds play a major role they are the least understood variable in climate change studies.

The NASA award of the type presented to Nasiri, assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M, is given to promising young researchers to further their studies in Earth's systems. Her three-year grant is for $324,000. The NASA New Investigator Program award acknowledges scientists and engineers who integrate research and education in Earth system sciences in the beginning stages of their professional careers.

In addition to defining a common language for studying mid-level clouds and assessing their role in climate studies, Nasiri will also use part of the grant to help schoolteachers supplement their curriculum. "I plan to make it easier for high school teachers to use NASA data to engage students in Earth science and climate studies," she says.

"Every school child learns about billowy cumulus and high, thin cirrus clouds, but middle clouds are often ignored. " If you see a cloud that looks like a space ship, it's probably a type of mid-level cloud called lenticular," says Nasiri.

A physics and math major as an undergraduate at the University of Denver, Nasiri completed her graduate work in atmospheric sciences at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She came to Texas A&M in 2006. She teaches an introduction to meteorology course as well undergraduate and graduate courses in atmospheric physics. She currently manages two additional grants from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. About research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world's leading research institutions, Texas A&M is in the vanguard in making significant contributions to the storehouse of knowledge, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represents an annual investment of more than $582 million, which ranks third nationally for universities without a medical school, and underwrites approximately 3,500 sponsored projects. That research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world.

Karen Riedel | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tamu.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New insights into the ancestors of all complex life
29.05.2017 | University of Bristol

nachricht A 3-D look at the 2015 El Niño
29.05.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New Method of Characterizing Graphene

Scientists have developed a new method of characterizing graphene’s properties without applying disruptive electrical contacts, allowing them to investigate both the resistance and quantum capacitance of graphene and other two-dimensional materials. Researchers from the Swiss Nanoscience Institute and the University of Basel’s Department of Physics reported their findings in the journal Physical Review Applied.

Graphene consists of a single layer of carbon atoms. It is transparent, harder than diamond and stronger than steel, yet flexible, and a significantly better...

Im Focus: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

3D printer inks from the woods

30.05.2017 | Life Sciences

How circadian clocks communicate with each other

30.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Graphene and quantum dots put in motion a CMOS-integrated camera that can see the invisible

30.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>