A satellite with a mission to explore the effect of clouds on climate.. How?

2024-05-27 2024-05-27T10:15:09Z
ندى ماهر عبدربه
ندى ماهر عبدربه
صانع مُحتوى

Arabia Weather - Clouds are a diverse and complex phenomenon, and their composition depends on their location in the lower layer of the atmosphere. The EarthCare satellite will launch on Tuesday from Vanderburgh Base in the US state of California on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on a mission to determine the role clouds can play in combating climate change.

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Satellite images

Earthcare and climate change

The two-ton satellite will orbit at an altitude of about 400 kilometers above the Earth for three years, with the aim of giving a comprehensive picture of the clouds. This mission is the result of cooperation between the European Space Agency and the Japanese space agency JAXA.

Dominique Giron, head of the Earth Observation Projects Division at the European Space Agency, told AFP:

“Clouds are one of the major factors influencing climate change, but they are one of the least understood.”

Giron added that clouds vary greatly and their composition depends on their location in the troposphere, which is the lowest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere. The troposphere begins at an altitude of about eight kilometers above the polar regions, while it begins at an altitude of about 18 kilometers near the equator. This means that The effect of clouds on climate varies according to their height and location at latitude.

For example, light white cumulus clouds, made up of water droplets, lie very low and act as an umbrella that reflects the sun's radiation back into space, contributing to the cooling of the atmosphere. As for thin clouds made of ice crystals, they allow solar radiation to pass through them. Which leads to an increase in the temperature of the planet, and Giron pointed out that thin clouds trap heat like a “blanket.”

Therefore, understanding the nature of clouds has become crucial, according to Simonetta Celli, head of the European Space Agency's Earth observation programmes.

Umbrella or blanket?

Chile explained in a press conference that “EarthCare” will be the first satellite to measure the vertical and horizontal distribution of clouds, and two of the satellite’s tools will focus on the clouds to explore their depths. The “LIDAR” tool will use a pulsed laser to measure clouds and aerosols, which are small particles in the atmosphere such as dust. Pollen or pollutants emitted by humans such as smoke or ash.

Dominique Giron pointed out that aerosols are considered "precursors" of clouds, as the satellite's radar will penetrate the clouds to measure the amount of water they contain, and will track the speed at which the clouds move through the atmosphere, similar to the way radars used by police work to detect speeding cars.

The satellite's other instruments will also measure the shape and temperature of the clouds, and all this data will contribute to creating the first complete image of the clouds from the perspective of a satellite, which will help the scientific community update climate models that estimate how quickly the planet is warming, according to the European Space Agency.

The amount of solar radiation penetrating clouds is crucial to understanding and mitigating human-induced climate warming. The mission aims to find out “whether the current effect of clouds, which is currently cooling, will become stronger or decline.”

This trend is becoming more difficult to predict as climate warming changes the distribution of clouds. “EarthCare will launch at a more important time than when it was conceived in 2004,” Chili said.

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Sources:

Arabic

This article was written originally in Arabic and is translated using a 3rd party automated service. ArabiaWeather is not responsible for any grammatical errors whatsoever.
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