Science

Scientists Create Ice Cloud In Lab

By Rodney Rafols , Dec 21, 2016 02:21 AM EST
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Studying clouds can help scientists learn more about weather and climate. As climate change continues to affect people, more tools are needed in order to make the study possible. That might be much easier now, as scientists create an ice cloud in the lab.

An atmospheric ice cloud has been created in the lab. The researchers have taken time-lapsed images and movies in order to document the creation. This was the first time that a particle began to attract water vapor all the way to ice crystals being formed. Ice crystals make up some clouds such as the very high cirrus clouds.

Clouds have been a major part of the Earth's climate. Clouds can reflect sunlight back into space, which deflects much radiation away from the Earth. Clouds can also act as a cover, which can keep the Earth cool. Clouds can also absorb heat.

In the formation of ice crystals that would later on become part of a cloud, first author Bingbing Wang, formerly from the Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory (EMSL) of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said that this process is the least understood in cloud formation. The big challenge in this is the part when the molecules come together, as Wang has observed.

To create how ice clouds are formed, Alexander Laskin, one of the leaders in the EMSL group, has formed a team coming from Stony Brook University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and PNNL. Daniel Knopf leads the Stony Brooks team while Mary Gilles leads the Berkeley group. The team then began by replicating conditions high above the Earth's atmosphere, according to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's site.

A highly confined climate-controlled chamber the size of a poppy seed has been used to control conditions such as temperature, pressure and humidity. The team then began to recreate ice nucleation events in it. a water vapor particle's size plays a role in how the ice crystals form, as Science Daily notes. In the experiment, the particles were small, about two to three microns in size.

As the ice crystals formed, the team took images every three seconds. The images were then made into a time-lapsed movie to show how the ice crystals have formed. Labs have been known to create ice crystals, but this is said to be the first time that an individual particle has been studied in creating ice crystals. The particles are barely visible but become much clearer as water vapor attaches to it, which then starts ice crystal formation.

Cloud formation can be useful in studying weather and climate. Now scientists can create an ice cloud in the lab. The ecosystem is affected by climate change, as a study shows a decline in the ecosystem because of it.

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