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Sampling Sky

Deploying global observatories to improve climate models
April 1, 2014
Sampling Sky

Atmospheric samples and other measurements are being collected from research sites all over the world, like this one in the Chilean Andes, to better inform global climate science.

According to the IPCC report, “clouds and aerosols continue to contribute the largest uncertainty to estimates and interpretations of the Earth’s changing energy budget.”

Cloud cover and aerosols over some areas of the planet may trap heat, adding warmth to the atmosphere, while in other areas the clouds may reflect solar radiation away, cooling the earth below. What really matters is the net effect—whether the global atmosphere is warmer or cooler overall. However, when it comes to modeling the future climate, scientists have discovered that they need a better understanding of local climate features. Atmospheric additions of greenhouse gases and anthropogenic aerosols add up quickly, but when combined with local weather and topography, they don’t always result in a predictably consistent outcome. The more data scientists can gather on the types of changes that occur and why, the more accurately they may be able to predict the future global energy balance.

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