Satellite-based Aerosol Measurements Add to Climate Change Data

Measurements of greenhouse gas concentrations are fundamental towards understanding current climate trends, since higher amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are directly linked to global warming. Such measurements are easy to make using conventional air monitoring sites around the world. However, monitoring concentrations of other atmospheric substances is also needed for a complete picture, because the warming effect from greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide is opposed by the cooling effect of particles such as dust or smoke, also known as aerosols. These particles can make clouds brighter, which reflects sunlight and therefore heat back to space, but they’re devilishly difficult to measure with traditional aircraft and ground-based radar methods. Recently, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a satellite-based method of detecting aerosols in clouds and the speed of clouds as they rise and develop, which is important for determining particle concentration and cloud brightness. Combining these aerosol measurements with greenhouse gas measurements will greatly improve our understanding of the changing climate and will ultimately aid in future policy decisions.

- Sean Faulk
Staff Writer, Signal to Noise Magazine
PhD Candidate, Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences

 

References:

Rosenfeld, D., Y. Zheng, E. Hashimshoni, M.L. Pöhlker, A. Jefferson, et al. Satellite retrieval of cloud condensation nuclei concentrations by using clouds as CCN chambers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1514044113