Cloud News May 2023

Clouds March/April/May 2023 Update

GLOBE’s Accessibility Technology Solution Sub-Committee Seeks Input from Visually Impaired Community Members

A special committee is charged by GLOBE’s Working Group chairs to explore ways in which technology and other tools can potentially facilitate greater levels of accessibility for everyone in relation to GLOBE tools and resources. The goal of this effort is to reduce and, where possible, remove impediments to maximum levels of participation in GLOBE. This special survey has been created to establish a baseline, and to determine the needs of community members who are visually impaired


Clouds on Other Planets

Image: Mars Clouds. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSS.

The NASA GLOBE Clouds team is excited to learn about clouds on other planets! So, in this update, we are taking a look at clouds on Mars and Jupiter. While cloudy days are rare on Mars, the red planet does have some clouds. They are typically found at the red planet’s equator in the coldest time of year. Some of Mars’ clouds are made of water ice, like clouds on Earth. They are found no higher than 37 miles (60 kilometers) in the sky. However, unlike Earth, Mars also has clouds made of carbon dioxide. These clouds form at higher altitudes, where it’s very cold. Recent information about the atmosphere on Mars comes from NASA’s Perseverance rover. Among other complex instruments, Perseverance has a special instrument called MEDA (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer). MEDA has several sensors to measure temperature, pressure, wind, humidity and dust properties. Scientists have observed that the temperature at Mars’ Jezero Crater (near the planet’s equator) varies a lot between day and night. But also, around midday, the rise and fall of air masses generate a lot of turbulence in the air. The pressure of Mars also varies with periods of the Martian solar day, which is a bit longer than the Earth day. The variation in temperature and pressure follows Mars’ daily cycle of sunshine, but it is also influenced by clouds and dust.

Image: Jupiter’s Swirling Clouds | Credit: Enhanced Image by Gerald Eichstädt and Sean Doran (CC BY-NC-SA)/NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSSOn the other hand, we have some interesting information about Jupiter as well! Recently, scientists completed a long study tracking Jupiter’s troposphere. On Earth, most clouds form in the troposphere. Well, the same is true for Jupiter. The colorful clouds of Jupiter form in its troposphere. Scientists have known that colder temperatures tend to happen in lighter and white bands of the giant planet. They have also known the warmer temperatures typically occur in the darker and brown-like bands of Jupiter. However, there were not enough data to understand how temperature varies over a long period of time, until a 40-year study was concluded. Scientists measured Jupiter’s temperatures above its colorful clouds. They found that very much like on Earth, Jupiter’s weather and climate patterns in one region can greatly influence the weather somewhere else. Scientists also hope they will be able to forecast weather on Jupiter now that they have more detailed knowledge of it.


What’s in the air we breathe?

Air pollution poses a threat to people, especially those with asthma and other health issues. As a response to that threat, a new sensor is scheduled to launch in April 2023. TEMPO (Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring Pollution) will be measuring air pollution hourly during daytime. The measurements will cover an area that extends from Mexico City and the Yucatan Peninsula to the Canadian oil sands. TEMPO will help study phenomena such as rush hour air pollution, as well as the movement of emissions from forest fires and volcanoes. From the ground, you can also help study air pollution when making GLOBE Clouds observations. This happens when you report the sky’s shade of blue you see, as well as when you report the sky’s visibility. A deeper blue shade relates to less pollution, and a milkier sky relates to more pollution. Similarly, a clearer sky across the horizon means there is less pollution than when there is a hazy sky. Watch GLOBE Clouds Scientist Marilé Colón Robles explain how sky color and visibility observations help study air pollution. You can also learn more about the TEMPO mission here!

Image: Graphic overview of TEMPO mission | Credit: NASA/SAO


Cloud Observation Tip: Surface Conditions


Image: GLOBE Observer Clouds Observation - Surface Conditions You may have wondered why you are asked to provide information about surface conditions when making a GLOBE Clouds observation. Your point of view from the ground is very important to complement what satellites can see from above. When a satellite is trying to identify clouds, it can be difficult to categorize different geographical elements. There are many colors involved! It may be especially hard for a satellite to know if something is ice or snow or a cloud. Therefore, reporting surface conditions is helpful for satellite validation. One of the questions under surface conditions is for “Leaves on Trees”. This question may seem tricky. Some trees may have leaves, while other trees do not. Here is a tip: Estimate the percentage of trees that have leaves (including needles). If more than half the trees have leaves, then answer “Yes”.


Meet an Expert: Dr. Kevin Czajkowski

Image: Dr. Kevin Czajkowski

Question: What is your current title and job description?

Answer: I recently was awarded the title of Distinguished University Professor at the University of Toledo for my contributions to the field of geographic research and educational outreach. I teach classes in Weather and Climate, Remote Sensing and Geospatial Technology. I mentor graduate students to do research on environmental problems such as Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) on Lake Erie and Urban Heat Islands. I lead a NASA funded educational outreach project to engage students in authentic scientific inquiry using the GLOBE Program and NASA assets.

Question: What inspired you to work in this field?

Answer: I first got interested in Meteorology when a blizzard struck the Buffalo, NY area in 1977. It was an amazing weather situation. School was closed for a week. That inspired me to get my meteorology Bachelor’s degree and then pursue my PhD in Atmospheric Sciences. I love a good snow day to this day.

Question: What is your favorite part about your work with GLOBE?

Answer: I personally love to go outside and observe the weather and environment. I have been doing it since I was 10 years old. I equally love to work with students to go outside and take observations too. And, I’ve met a lot of great people and have been able to visit them across the United States and in other countries around the world: Germany, Greece, Switzerland, India, etc.

Question: Where are you from?

Answer: As I mentioned, I grew up near Buffalo, NY. That’s also near Niagara Falls, one of the great wonders of the world. When I was 12 my family moved to a rural area and I really loved exploring the environment around our house. I currently live in southern Michigan and work 11 miles away at the University of Toledo in Ohio.

Question: What kinds of skills do you need in your job that you didn’t learn in school?

Answer: I would say that I learned a lot through school and most of everything that helps me in my job. I tell my students that they will need to be able to write well, be able to speak in front of people and use technology in any job they get. Also, in high school, college and graduate school, I was given the chance, and took those chances, to do things that weren’t in the general curriculum. I was able to try things like brainstorm and build robots through the Odyssey of the Mind Program in high school and college and help build and race a solar car at the University of Michigan.

Question: What are some of the most important lessons you have learned in your life?

Answer: My most important lesson is that you can accomplish a lot and do really interesting things by working hard. I started to study in fourth grade and worked hard through college and graduate school and in my current job. I’m not as smart as many people but I make that up with hard work. I would say that my hard work paid off because I have the best job in the world; I work with students, do interesting and fun research and get to go outside and look at the weather for my job.

Question: Anything else you would like to add?

Answer: Star Wars is my favorite movie and I love watching all the Star Wars movies and seasons since then. I love looking up at the clouds. My wife reminds me that is not a good thing to do while driving. It’s amazing the atmospheric phenomenon I see by looking up: sun dogs, rainbows, thunderstorms or smoke from a fire.


Science Topic: Urban Heat Islands and Fog

Image: Holes in a layer of fog over northern India | Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Clouds can form at many different altitudes. Fog is a cloud type that touches the ground. It forms when air near the ground gets cold enough for its water vapor to condense. Satellite images can show layers of fog. But a few years ago, scientists saw something unexpected in one of the satellite images. They saw holes over a layer of fog in Northern India. They noticed that the fog holes coincided with big cities. So what could be causing them? Remember we said that fog forms when water vapor condenses near the ground. Well, urban areas tend to have large areas of pavement, buildings, and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat more than natural land. These areas are known as urban heat islands. When the land surface gets hotter, the ground becomes less humid. With less moisture available, less fog can form. Therefore, the urban heat island effect can lead to fog holes!