Worldwide scientists have noted that clouds are getting lower than before. The average height of clouds has fallen significantly in recent years, though they are not dropping significantly enough without reason. Is this descent in clouds related to recent activity from the sun? Could this effect have something to do with the fact that this is 2012? Or is this new global development explained a bit more simply?
The discovery, originally made by researchers working at the University of Auckland, shows that data from the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer has clocked the average height of clouds as up to 130 feet lower on average than ten years ago. MISR, the satellite responsible for the measurements has a few climatologists scratching their heads in wonder.
While scientists have offered to apply the new data to better improve their climate models, there is no proof that this process will be able to explain why the clouds are descending in the first place. One of the problems of low clouds is the fact that as they descend, they radiate less heat than they would if they were high up from the surface of the Earth. High up large clouds are one of the many countermeasures to have an effect on Global Warming, as they reflect heat and light up off of the Earth’s surface. Low clouds mean more light and heat is being reflected much closer to Earth and must pass through far more atmosphere to be radiated back into space. This in turn reflects more back to the surface where it must be either absorbed or reflected back into the atmosphere. Of course the true impact on Global Warming will have to be determined by scientists when they input the new data into future global weather simulations.
So what’s causing it? What could be bringing down clouds? As the announcement has only recently been made by climatologists, and they’ve been fairly uncertain about the cause themselves, it’s difficult to speculate on what it might be.
Ambitious predictions based on cloud formations is a practice that has been around for some time. The Babylonians used a combination of cloud observation and astrology to help them through their weather predictions. Many of the great philosophers and mathematicians including Aristotle have attempted to make some sense of the clouds, publishing massive tomes on the subject. Climate has been a significant factor not only for the forecasting of individual rainfalls, but the far larger overall climate patterns that would bring forth a good harvest or plunge a civilization into famine.
Similar to those weather readers of ancient times, scientists are doing what they can with what information they have to determine how big an impact the descending cloud line will have on the world’s climate. One thing they will keep in mind, however, is the fact that actual measurements have only been taken for a relatively small window of time. It’s difficult to make broad determinations based on such a small pool of data. Only over time will global understanding – and predictions – improve.