The blue graph shows the temperature if we introduce artificial clouds. She explains that the dark winters at the poles make these areas less suitable for cloud technology. The red curve shows the global temperature in the future without artificial clouds, the blue one shows the temperature if the planet is shrouded by clouds all year round.
For three years, she and six other climate researchers have worked to reveal the inner life of clouds to understand how to cool down the planet. We already have the planes, balloons and drones that can carry the right ingredients into the sky. Whether we should even consider doing so. Oslo is shrouded in a thin veil of snow on this day in February. This is exactly what the artificial clouds are meant to do. They will increase the bright surfaces of the planet and amplify what in scientific terms is called the albedo effect.
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Clouds have the same effect on the climate as snow. The bright surface reflects heat back into space, preventing it from being absorbed by darker land or ocean. Low-lying marine clouds form km above the ocean, and can be created by spraying sea salt into the air so that the droplets in the clouds have something to form around. This method works almost immediately. The challenge is that the salt particles dissolve after a few days, so salt must be sprayed continuously.
Stratospheric dust clouds drift at an altitude of about 20 km, and can be created by spreading huge amounts of microscopic particles into the sky from planes or balloons. Atmospheric circulation then distributes them. Within a few months, the particles will have created a continuous, grey shroud around the planet that lasts for years.
In , the Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines spewed huge amounts of sulphur into the atmosphere. The tiny particles spread across the planet and reduced global temperatures by 0. The sky looks a bit whiter. And it can become harder to see the stars, the scientist says. Nothing is tested in real life.
For now, they leave that to others — with good reason. The upcoming story illustrates some of the problems scientists face if they want to let the artificial clouds out in the atmosphere. If an artificial dust cloud surrounds the entire planet, sunsets like this one can become much more common.
In May , a white balloon was ready for launch from a field in Norfolk in England.
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A kilometre-long water hose would ensure that the balloon never rose too far — and that it could be safely brought back to earth. The balloon was part of a research project called SPICE, and was supposed to be a milestone in climate engineering: The first time that cloud manipulation would be tested in real life. Everything was ready for the momentous launch in A long hose would transport water from the ground up to the balloon. The researchers had no intention of experimenting with chemical substances. The researchers wanted to pump litres of water up to the balloon and release it as spray in the atmosphere.
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The aim was to find out how the balloon and the hose would behave in different wind conditions. The findings would enable the next step: The experiment was small-scale, and would not have had any negative impact on the environment. Yet the balloon was never released. In May, the project was cancelled, to the great disappointment of the project group. One of the problems was about ownership.
It turned out that an engineer connected to the project had patented parts of the SPICE technology, thereby throwing into doubt whether the technology would be publicly accessible in the future, an important principle for the climate scientists in the project. The project also encountered unexpected public resistance. The scientists had expected positive interest from a limited number of people, mainly the local population, who could follow the launch with their own eyes.
This turned out to be a mistake. They thought it would send the wrong signals. But the greatest problem was the lack of international guidelines for researchers in the field of geoengineering.
Artificial clouds work best over the tropics
Available for download now. Iris and Her Elementary Experience: Learning the Alphabet Using Everyday Objects. Doodle Cakes and Snippy Sam Mar 06, Inside Kelsey's Journal Mar 05, Hayes-Williams , Sheila S. Out of Print--Limited Availability. The Many Shades of Sepia: Poetry in Multiple Hues Dec 07, Provide feedback about this page. There's a problem loading this menu right now. Get fast, free shipping with Amazon Prime. Our language of clouds dates back to , when amateur scientist and earnest sky watcher Luke Howard delivered a lecture tntitled " On the Modifications of Clouds ".
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Howard classified clouds in terms that remain familiar today: Since then, a sprinkling of variations and sub-classifications has been added to Howard's work, leaving us with a rich nomenclature that has remained unchanged since That is, until now. Members of the Society had been sending in photographs of "the cloud with no name": Pretor-Pinney proposed the name asperatus, meaning "roughened" or "agitated". In June , the name — slightly modified to its noun form, asperitas — was officially accepted into the World Meteorological Organisation's International Cloud Atlas, the reference system used by meteorologists across the globe.
Scientists now want to find out how asperitas clouds form. They are most commonly spotted rolling across the North American plains, chasing convective thunderstorms. Despite their ominous appearance, they tend to dissipate without turning into storms themselves. View image of Kelvin-Helmholtz waves Credit: One of the rarest and most fleeting formations, this cartoon-like breaking wave is the Holy Grail for many cloud-spotters.
It occurs almost everywhere in the world and at all levels of the atmosphere. But it only lasts a few minutes before dispersing without a trace. The crashing wave pattern is caused when swift, warm air flows over a colder, denser, more sluggish layer. As physicists William Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz discovered, the difference in the speeds and densities of these fluids creates a shearing force where they meet , producing undulations in the boundary between the two. If the speed difference is just right, the tops of the denser ripples can roll up, surge forwards, and tip over in a series of vortices, just like a breaking ocean wave.
When clouds happen to form at the horizontal boundary, this invisible air process is briefly made visible. Though beautiful, these turbulent atmospheric waves are a sign that the air is extremely unstable and may be dangerous to aircraft. View image of A supercell thunderstorm over Nebraska Credit: Supercells are the least common kind of thunderstorm. Their destructive might is second only to hurricanes.
What sets them apart from regular violent storms is a persistent rotating updraft called a mesocyclone, which allows the storm to sustain itself over many hours. Typical thunderstorms develop from cumulonimbus clouds. These begin as dense, billowing white towers, formed when warm, moist air is carried swiftly upwards by powerful convection currents. As the humid air bubbles up into cooler parts of the atmosphere, the moisture condenses, transforming fluffy cotton-wool clouds into a massive, lumbering rain cloud.
Given enough instability, moisture, and lift, the hefty cloud becomes electrified. When the cloud reaches the top of the troposphere — the bottom layer of Earth's atmosphere, which contains all the weather — a distinctive anvil-shaped thunderhead forms. However, once rain starts falling, it causes a downdraft of cool, dense air. This sinks and flows out of the base of the cloud, smothering the updraft and starving the storm of energy. As a result, these storms typically dissipate within about 30 minutes of starting. In a supercell, vertical wind shear creates huge horizontal tubes of spinning air.
These tubes get caught in the updraft and tilt upwards into the storm. This sets up a system where the up- and downdrafts become separated , allowing the storm to maintain its rage for hours.