Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Global Warming Science Still Evolving

Another piece of the story and why it is important to do extensive research on core factors—as, for instance and on a much smaller scale, was done with the Auburn Dam around the earthquake issue—prior to committing to a policy direction.

The nature of cloud water may play a very important, yet still unknown, role affecting scientific and political decisions.

More research is surely needed and it is heartening that it continues.

Arctic cloud water puzzles scientists

EUREKA, Nunavut Territory -- Scientists are peering into the clouds near the top of the world, trying to solve a mystery and learn something new about global warming.

Creating the mystery are the droplets of water in the clouds. With the North Pole just 685 miles away, they should be frozen, yet more of them are liquid than anyone expected. So the scientists working out of a converted blue cargo container are trying to determine whether the clouds are one of the causes -- or effects -- of Earth's warming atmosphere.

"Much to our surprise, we found that Arctic clouds have got lots of supercooled liquid water in them. Liquid water has even been detected in clouds at temperatures as low as [minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit]," said Taneil Uttal, chief of the Clouds and Arctic Research Group at the Earth Systems Research Laboratory of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"If a cloud is composed of liquid water droplets in the Arctic instead of ice crystals, then that changes how they will interact with the Earth's surface and the atmosphere to reflect, absorb and transmit radiation," Miss Uttal said.

"It's a new science, driven by the fact that everybody doing climate predictions says that clouds are perhaps the single greatest unknown factor in understanding global warming."