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Unlocking the Secrets of Clouds

December 10, 2010 - 10:42am

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An ARM mobile research facility deployed in Steamboat Springs, CO, to begin replacing measurement methods that formerly took years and had to be done using costly aircraft operations. | Energy Department Photo | Courtesy of Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate and Research Facility |

An ARM mobile research facility deployed in Steamboat Springs, CO, to begin replacing measurement methods that formerly took years and had to be done using costly aircraft operations. | Energy Department Photo | Courtesy of Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate and Research Facility |

Clouds may look soft, fluffy and harmless to the untrained eye, but to an expert climate model scientist they represent great challenges. Fortunately the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate and Research Facility is kicking off a five-month study which should significantly clear the air.

Clouds, which cover about half of the earth's surface, are a critical component to global climate predictions. They cool by reflecting sunlight back into space and warm by reflecting infrared radiation back to earth.  But their behavior is still poorly understood, making clouds  an area of study. 

ARM Climate Research Facility will use nearly two dozen remote-sensing instruments to create "vertical profiles" of clouds by measuring them at multiple elevations as they move over mountain slopes  in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. This new process replaces measurements that usually took years and had to be done using costly aircraft operations.

At a fraction of previous method's time and expense, this study will be critical to continuing improvements in global climate models and climate predictions. You can learn more about this study on the ARM site.

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