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Fly Along With NASA's Cloud Hunters

Climb aboard NASA's biggest flying laboratory to discover the climate change secrets of clouds.

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One of the biggest question marks hanging over climate studies right now is about the role of clouds and the aerosols, tiny airborne particles, that shape them. The problem is clouds move fast, making them hard to model, and depending on their concentration at different altitudes, clouds can cool or heat the planet. Scientists agree that before they can build the best models to predict climate change, they first have to understand clouds.

This summer, NASA has been working to crack this problem, at 30,000 feet, aboard a custom-equipped flying laboratory. Climate Desk was invited onboard for an eight-hour mission to suck the secrets out of clouds.

 

About the Authors

  • James West is the editor and producer of The Climate Desk, a collaboration among The Atlantic, the Center for Investigative Reporting, Grist, Mother Jones, Slate, Wired, and PBS. He is the author of Beijing Blur.
  • Tim McDonnell is a senior fellow on the Climate Desk, where he covers national energy policy.