Hero or Villain?

Photo Jun 19, 2 06 39 PM

Nimbostratus clouds on WCC campus

A lot of people pay no attention to our clouds in the sky. They look at them and try to make animals and shapes out  of them but never really think about what they actually do for/against the planet. They don’t pay attention to how they affect global warming. Sure the big, low, fluffy clouds, are like heroes because they make the earth cooler, but what about the clouds high up in the sky, the bad guys, the villains, that trap the heat and don’t let it return to its home; space.

My group and I are doing a citizen science project on how clouds affect global warming. We observe the cloud type, height, coverage, and visual opacity. We then take these observations and upload them onto S’COOL Rover. NASA takes these abservations and can use them to predict how the clouds will change global warming for the good or the bad. Based on observations my group and I have made, the days we had lower clouds, like nimbostratus or altostratus, were a lot cooler. On days when the clouds are high up, it’s warmer. The temperature changed from about 67 degrees on low clouded days to about 80 degrees on high clouded days.

High thin clouds, according to Andreas Muhlbauer, a cloud researcher at the University of Washington, the thin high clouds are, “like putting a lid on a pot on a stove.” Thankfully, the low clouds are becoming more numerous. As evidence, the National Science Foundation’s site says that all of earth’s clouds exert a net cooling effect right now. This basically just means that right now the clouds are cooling the earth more than warming. This is because at any given point, 70% of the earth is covered by clouds.  The low clouds like nimbostratus and altostratus help cool the earth because they are very dense and block the sun but aren’t the kind of clouds that trap heat.

Some people say that the clouds are so unpredictable so what’s to stop them from creating a net warming effect? Nothing can stop them if that happens. That is exactly why we don’t completely rely on clouds to stop global warming, but they’ll help in a big way.

So what makes the clouds heroes and villains? The clouds that block the sun and that are helping cool the earth are the superheroes that are gonna help with global warming. The high clouds that trap heat are the villains that are gonna keep making the earth warmer. Thankfully, the superheroes always win.