Clouds Shaped by Where They Come From

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For years and years, scientists have been trying to figure out how and why clouds take the various shapes that they do.  But now, two new  studies show that cloud forming particles in the atmosphere, called aerosols, look different and make different clouds depending on their origins, reports WIRED.

One study found that in the atmosphere above the Amazon Rainforest clouds mainly come from gas emitted by plants. “The plants cause the rainfall, and the rainfall causes the plants,” said Harvard environmental chemist Scot Martin, a coauthor of the study.  The other study examined some 15 years of data from airplanes flying through clouds and found that aerosols made from human induced activities are larger, more numerous and contribute more to haze than biogenic particles.

The overall finding? Human particles are more likely to go on and form clouds than the plant particles.  But scientists are still trying to figure out what overall effect this has.  “Unfortunately that’s not easily done without very complex models,” concludes Anthony Clarke, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Hawaii who led the second study. “But there is data out there now for modelers.”  (via Wired)

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