Search

Stay Connected

NOAA Research News

Searching for the seeds of Arctic clouds
Monica Allen

Searching for the seeds of Arctic clouds

Editor's note: This is the sixth in a series Dispatches from the Arctic on the August science cruise by NOAA and partner scientists aboard the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy. Today's post is from Dr. Jessie Creamean of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory.

The Arctic Ocean is a bustling metropolis of life that ranges in size from whales the size of small ships to microscopic marine bacteria that are 300,000 times smaller than a basketball. In fact, there are billions of bacteria in Arctic waters that feed on waste from algae and other small organisms. These bacteria are typically not harmful to humans or other mammals but when ejected into the atmosphere by bubbles and waves at the ocean surface they can serve as “seeds” for forming ice crystals in Arctic clouds. This particular process is something the scientists currently don’t have a good grasp on.

Atmospheric scientists

Atmospheric scientists

Jessie Creamean's team of young atmospheric scientists on the Healy in the Chukchi Sea. They are from left to right, Nadia Colombi, University of California in Los Angeles, Emily Bolger, University of Miami,Creamean, Julio Ceniceros, University of Texas in El Paso, and Taylor Aydell, University of Louisiana in Monroe. Courtesy of Jessie Creamean

Understanding clouds and how they form is essential to understanding the Arctic climate. These clouds trap warm air at the surface like a blanket. There has been a continuous increase in cloud cover over the Arctic for the past two decades and this is driving big changes on land and in the ocean.

When looking up at the sky, a large fraction of the millions of tiny droplets and ice crystals that make up clouds are formed by particles in the air called aerosols. Aerosols such as bacteria win the race when it comes to forming cloud ice, and without them or other types of cloud ice seeds like dust or pollen, a cloud would need temperatures below minus 36 degrees Fahrenheit to form ice, brrrrr.

Although scientists understand the theory behind how cloud ice forms, mimicking this process in models to predict the amount of sunlight and heat that reach Arctic surfaces is difficult, mainly because it is challenging to take field measurements in the Arctic. This is the motivation behind our research: Where do the seeds for Arctic clouds come from?

Creating clouds in a lab

Creating clouds in a lab

Students in lab aboard the Healy conduct an experiment that simulates how a cloud forms ice from seawater samples, Courtesy of Jessie Creamean

This is my second time at sea on the Healy to attempt to answer this question. While on board, I am mentoring a motivated and savvy team of summer students to collect seawater and air samples to see what types of cloud ice seeds, called ice nucleating particles, are present and what types of processes and weather conditions lead to shuttling these particles from deep down in the ocean to the skies above. Together, we are analyzing hundreds of seawater and aerosol samples for ice nucleating particles, how many of them there are, where exactly in the ocean and skies they live, and how good they are at forming cloud ice.

This is the first time at sea for all four summer students. I hope this experience is something these emerging young scientists will remember as they progress in the scientific community and excites them for their careers to come!

To learn more about Dr. Creamean's research, go online for the 2017 Arctic Dispatches blog post “Is the Arctic getting cloudier?” 

 

Previous Article NOAA and partners test unmanned vehicle to detect harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie
Next Article Looking for life in Arctic mud
Print
3221

x

Popular Research News

NOAA scientist honored for tackling the world’s big climate questions

NOAA scientist honored for tackling the world’s big climate questions Read more

NOAA senior research scientist Isaac Held was awarded the 2018 Roger Revelle Medal on Wednesday evening by the American Geophysical Union for his pioneering work to answer some of the biggest questions about the structure of our atmosphere and how its large-scale circulation systems drive our weather and climate.

Argo Program Achieves Milestone with Two Million Ocean Measurements

Argo Program Achieves Milestone with Two Million Ocean Measurements Read more

An Argo float recently surfaced in the Atlantic Ocean to transmit temperature and salinity measurements from over a mile deep. This float was made in France and launched by German scientists in 2016, and it is one of thousands in the international Argo Program, which just recorded its two millionth profile, marking a major milestone for the 20-year old observation program.

NOAA seeking public input for research and development plan

NOAA seeking public input for research and development plan Read more

The public is invited to help set the course for NOAA research and development for the coming years.   Public comments will be welcomed until Friday, February 8, 2019. You can submit your comments by email to noaa.rdplan@noaa.gov. Please include the subject line “NOAA R&D Plan Public Comment.”

 

XPRIZE finalists test new technologies for $1M NOAA Bonus Prize

XPRIZE finalists test new technologies for $1M NOAA Bonus Prize Read more

Editor's note: We are sharing a news release that XPRIZE issued this week on the competition for the $1 million Bonus Prize sponsored by NOAA.

As the world’s leader in designing and managing incentive competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges, XPRIZE announced this week that the three finalist teams competing for the $1 million Bonus Prize sponsored by NOAA, in its Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, have tested their technologies in Ponce, Puerto Rico.

NOAA taps fishery scientist to lead its Pacific Marine Environmental Lab

NOAA taps fishery scientist to lead its Pacific Marine Environmental Lab Read more

Michelle McClure, director of the Fishery Resource Analysis and Monitoring Division at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, began work Monday, February 4, 2019,  as the new director of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle.

RSS
«February 2019»
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
272829303112
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
242526272812
3456789

Oar Headquarters

Phone: 301-713-2458
Address: 1315 East-West Highway Silver Spring, MD 20910

Stay Connected

About Us

The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) - or "NOAA Research" - provides the research foundation for understanding the complex systems that support our planet. Working in partnership with other organizational units of the NOAA, a bureau of the Department of Commerce, NOAA Research enables better forecasts, earlier warnings for natural disasters, and a greater understanding of the Earth. Our role is to provide unbiased science to better manage the environment, nationally, and globally.

Contact Us

Can't Find What You Need?
Send Feedback
Back To Top