It seems that despite years of study and some serious computing power clouds are still something of a mystery to science. Which is reassuring in a way as despite spending as much time as possible floating about under them I’ve never really got my head around them either.
“We don’t understand many basic things about clouds”
One man who’s made it his mission to better understand the way clouds work is David Romps, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist in the USA. “We don’t understand many basic things about clouds,” he says. “We don’t know why clouds rise at the speeds they do. We don’t know why they are the sizes they are. We lack a fundamental theory for what is a very peculiar case of fluid flow. There’s a lot of theory that remains to be done.”
Looking at the earth’s response to climate change involves the use of global climate models (GSMs) run on super-computers. However these simulations are unable to look at small scale weather systems such as clouds and Romps has had to use submodels to simulate these and observe the effect of CO2 changes in the atmosphere might have on their formation.
The image to the left shows the simulated formation of a cumulonimbus cloud in one of the submodel used by Romps.
Take a look at the Berkley Lab website for the full story.