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Why Is This Cloud Raining on Me?

A team of multidisciplinary scientists wants to know more about cumulus clouds, the simplest and "puffiest" clouds that float across the sky. To do so, they are developing new visualization and analysis techniques to gain insight into the factors that control precipitation development in cumulus clouds found in trade winds. These clouds are present over much of the globe; they affect heat and moisture budgets; and they have an impact on the amount of radiation that enters and leaves Earth’s atmosphere. They are poorly represented in global climate models, and this research should improve their portion of the models. Because cumulus clouds are relatively simple clouds that contain no ice, they can be used to investigate long-standing, fundamental questions about precipitation development by the warm rain processes that are relevant to other types of clouds. This knowledge could inform precipitation-flood-drought forecasts and benefit agriculture.


  • Photo of cumulus clouds
White, fluffy cumulus clouds float through the sky.
© 2010 Jupiterimages Corporation
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