Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Space Traffic May Be Creating More Clouds

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the blame-NASA-for-superstorm-sandy dept.

Earth 57

seagirlreed writes "Rocket traffic may be adding water to the Earth's mesosphere, leading to more very high clouds in this layer of thin air on the edge of space. From the article: 'A team of researchers looking for an expected decrease in the number of clouds in this layer, as solar activity and heating have ramped up, were instead surprised to find an increase in the number and brightness of clouds in this near-outer-space region over the last two years. ... The source of the water to make the clouds is a puzzle, Siskind explained, because there is not much sign of it coming up into the mesosphere. On the other hand, rockets and, until recently, shuttles roaming in space could rain water exhaust down into the mesosphere.'"

cancel ×

57 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199195)

When we colonize the mesosphere in Bespin-style cloud cities, we'll need clouds there.

Great, kill 2 birds (4, Funny)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year ago | (#44199237)

with 1 stone... put lots of rockets up and build something cool like a Elysium space city, or maybe a space elevator. And solve global warming at the same time!

Re:Great, kill 2 birds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199603)

Or just vent the atmosphere. Problem solved.

Re:Great, kill 2 birds (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44200137)

Solve? Water vapour is a pretty good insulator. Increasing the water in the atmosphere increases global warming.

Re:Great, kill 2 birds (3, Informative)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year ago | (#44200995)

water != cloud

white cloud reflects a lot of sun's radiation back into space. Yes water vapor is a strong greenhouse gas, but we're talking about more efficient trapping of [heat that has been greatly reduced by higher albedo before it ever hit the ground]. Net effect is reduced overall heat.

Just go out on a cloudy summer day vs. a cloudless one and feel the effect.

Re:Great, kill 2 birds (2)

dryeo (100693) | about a year ago | (#44201477)

Works really well for Venus. Coolest planet in the solar system due to all those clouds.
On Earth you can go out on a cloudy night vs a clear night and feel the effect.

Re:Great, kill 2 birds (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year ago | (#44204733)

Venus is a lot closer to the sun.

Put Venus in the same orbit as Earth and see what the temperature is.

Re:Great, kill 2 birds (1)

dryeo (100693) | about a year ago | (#44206431)

Venus is a lot closer to the sun.

It isn't that much closer to the Sun, much less then Mercury which is cooler then Venus. There's a reason that Venus was expected to be inhabitable until the temperature was first measured by radar in '59 or so and it was so surprising how hot Venus is.

Put Venus in the same orbit as Earth and see what the temperature is.

Close enough to what it currently is. The greenhouse effect is pretty powerful, even the Earth is 40 Kelvins hotter then it would be without an atmosphere and Venus is more like 400 Kelvins hotter even with it's very high albedo.

another variable in climate modelling (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about a year ago | (#44199269)

to confuse the C02 argument even further.

Re:another variable in climate modelling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199423)

Well according to the scientist, it has been getting warmer since Sputnik went up. It correlates, therefore it must be the cause.

Re:another variable in climate modelling (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#44199535)

Forget the models - Do we get our glaciers back?

Re:another variable in climate modelling (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199935)

I'm looking forward to getting these [xkcd.com] back!

Re:another variable in climate modelling (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44199945)

Forget the models - Do we get our glaciers back?

Yep. At the very next ice age. Coming soon (in geological terms) to a theater near you.

Re:another variable in climate modelling (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year ago | (#44199987)

Glaciers shmaciers. Think of all the prime real estate opening up on Greenland.

Re:another variable in climate modelling (2, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44199599)

to confuse the C02 argument even further.

Or perhaps simply to overlook the CO2 (and by the way, it is C oh 2, not C zero 2) issue completely, in their quest to blame some specific activity.

Since CO2 levels have recently pass the 400 ppm level [guardian.co.uk] for the first time in "recorded history" (ignoring for the moment that nobody recorded this until last 50 years or so), the source of the clouds could be a natural reaction to the increased CO2, and the claimed increase in world temperatures.

Since the article says:

'A team of researchers looking for an expected decrease in the number of clouds in this layer, as solar activity and heating have ramped up,

Yet in years past they were predicting increases cloud cover at all altitudes as one of the outcomes of increased temperatures. So why were they expecting a decrease?

It seems far more likely to me that they have their model wrong than it is likely that the puny number of launches of late have dumped that many tons of water in the mesosphere.

Re:another variable in climate modelling (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199707)

Since CO2 levels have recently pass the 400 ppm level [guardian.co.uk] for the first time in "recorded history" (ignoring for the moment that nobody recorded this until last 50 years or so),:

You forget the well-known practice of extracting the air from bubbles in ice cores, for direct measures.

Re:another variable in climate modelling (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44200245)

Always good to include a citation...

Keeling: The reconstructions before the ice core period, which take us only back 800,000 years, are a lot less secure. In the case of ice cores, we actually have samples of old air. And subject to some small caveats, you can simply analyze those and figure it out. In earlier geologic eras, the reconstruction of carbon dioxide depends on more indirect measurements. The work of people like Mark Pagani at Yale, who is in the business of reconstructing paleo CO2, shows that the last time that CO2 was around this level was probably in the mid-Pliocene, 2 to 4 million years ago.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/may/14/record-400ppm-co2-carbon-emissions

Re:another variable in climate modelling (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44200573)

Answer: There are many kinds of clouds and they do different things at different altitudes and different conditions. It's not just water, it has to precipitate out on something and new fairly basic discoveries about cloud formation are still being made. We still don't know enough to be able to make a raincloud form despite people having a rough idea that made sense in 1912 and giving it a try.

It seems far more likely to me that they have their model wrong

There's no single model - just like with fluid flow in general.

Re:another variable in climate modelling (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year ago | (#44200911)

the source of the clouds could be a natural reaction to the increased CO2

It could be but it isn't. Water vapour from the troposphere does not generally get into the stratosphere let alone the mesosphere unless put there by a tall volcanic plume or a machine. Once the water is up that high it doesn't fall back down easily, rather it is slowly broken down by radiation and the hydrogen tends to leak off into space.

Yet in years past they were predicting increases cloud cover at all altitudes

Umm, no the prediction was more water vapour and less cloud in the troposphere, there has been very little done in the way of research into clouds in the mesosphere so any prediction there was likely just speculation. The prediction for the change in tropospheric cloud cover was very uncertain, climate scientists will tell you that ALL clouds are poorly understood and of the various types ultra high level cloud is the most mysterious. The predicted increase in vapour itself was made with a very high level of confidence due to the well understood physics involved. Also note that CO2 has a cooling effect in the stratosphere and above, which was a prediction of models in the 80's and has since been observed via satellite. (google "stratospheric cooling")

Why "less cloud" I'm not sure but water vapour has increased by ~4% since 1980 and cloud cover has very slightly decreased since 2000 (although it's debatable that there has been any change at all). The odd thing about water vapour is that it is almost exclusively found in the troposphere and the troposphere is always very close to chemically saturated* with it, the only way to change it is by changing either the pressure or temperature of the troposphere.

chemically saturated* - google: "dew point" and realize the altitude at where it occurs is always below the troposphere/stratosphere boundary which makes for extremely dry upper layers of the atmosphere.

all altitudes isn't mesosphere (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about a year ago | (#44201807)

They obviously meant all altitudes "normal" clouds appear. Mesosphere is way higher than were normal clouds ever form (the atmosphere) and water (vapour) never gets there by normal weather or climatic influences that we know of. The whole idea is that they have water there they can't explain properly. Their hypothesis is that it's coming from exhaust of rocket engines, but they aren't sure. There is no indication this has anything to do with the prediction that there will be increased cloud cover in the atmosphere due to increased temperatures on the surface of the planet.

Lazy Scientists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199817)

Every time they come across something that doesn't match their understanding of something, the lazy scientist automatically suggests that Humans must be fucking up their careful calculations. Because, they know everything Nature has to throw at them so it must b the stupid Humans.

Re:Lazy Scientists (4, Insightful)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about a year ago | (#44199939)

It's more like scientists making mild suggestions requiring further research and the media taking that as "Rocket launches are going to cause permanent overcast skies within 20 years!!!"

Re:Lazy Scientists (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#44204577)

Obligatory [xkcd.com] (especially the tooltip)

Re:another variable in climate modelling (0)

Artifakt (700173) | about a year ago | (#44200253)

This article is about the very thin, topmost portions of the atmosphere, with basically less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the air. Warming related data there looks funny, compared to the main bulk of the atmosphere (roughly 99.9%).
Remember "climategate"? That was about somebody either trying to fudge data or honestly reconcile odd data on high altitude forests. Let's assume for the sake of argument that the researcher was totally guilty of some kind of deliberate fraud - it was still data about roughly the fringe 1/10th of 1 percent of forests (part of that data was specifically from odd trees actually found above the normal treelines of certain mountains - that's practically the definition of quirky data).
Yes, the argument is confused, because one side will say "See, one whole tenth of one percent is flaky/fixed/fraudulent - that matters so much the other 99.9% should be tossed immediately and everybody should make up their minds based only on the 'one tenth of one' evidence. If you really decide scientific questions by letting a fringe 1/10th of 1 % overide all other data, then enjoy throwing out Evolution, Relativity, and really every other theory. I'm pretty sure if we run 1,000 brand new experiments about Newton's gravitational theory, we can get one result that says it's all hogwash and we should invest our entire national science budget in Philogeston futures and Phrenology for national defense.
If you let 1/10th of 1 % count for 50% (which is basically what the news media do every time they give equal space to 'both' sides on that 1/10th of 1 basis), the argument will become confused and stay that way. In the news "1/10th of 1 % of single males looking for eligible women believe a makeshift plywood pillory figures prominently in keeping them around. Now CSBBRCNBSLSMFTFOCX presents a special on two popular ways of finding that special somebody. ".

Re:another variable in climate modelling (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44200635)

Climategate sounded like a scandal to some but just sounded like people chatting about how to reduce noise in noisy data to others. Next up, the scandal when it's revealed that sausages do not contain 100% lean beef which is not a scandal if you think about how they have to stick together and cook properly. In other words "Climategate" was about ignorant people reading words out of context and manufacturing a fake scandal.
For real scandals you have to look at things like the guy that faked the link between a preservative used in vaccines and autism so that he could sell his own preservative.

Re:another variable in climate modelling (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#44202103)

This.

As an aside, light pollution in my area is bad enough that it's not easy to see these noctilucent clouds. Between that pollution and clouds, it's nigh impossible to see much of the night sky; I consider that one of the problems afflicting city dwellers is the inability to see the nighttime sky, which might otherwise provide for feeling humility and awe.

NLCs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199281)

Probably worth noting that this refers to noctilucent clouds (NLCs) which occur in polar regions.

The findings of NASA's AIM satellite are, as of yet, inexplicable. Therefore, what's mentioned here is purely speculative.

woah there nellie.. (1)

mevets (322601) | about a year ago | (#44199811)

Are you saying /doters are posting speculative assumptions to explain inconclusive observations.
Them is fightin words, sir! Pistols at sunrise.

Not rockets. (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about a year ago | (#44199831)

Since there hasn't been a significant increase in rocket launches in the last two years, rocket launches can't be the explanation for an increase in noctilucent clouds in the last two years.

Another dipshit headline no Slashdot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199287)

Someone said on another thread that Slashdot is degrading or some such in reference to a commenter.

Look at the submissions asshole!

They're garbage!

Slashdot is a garbage website with shit news!

That's why it's going downhill you morans!!!

You are THE perfect example (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199847)

Of the sudden drop in IQ of /. posters:

That's why it's going downhill you morans!!!

It is spelled m-o-r-o-n you maroon.
If you don't get the reference, turn in your AC badge now.

Re:You are THE perfect example (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199931)

He meant "korans". Since most slashdot readers are living in Afghanistan and connecting with a C64.

Re:You are THE perfect example (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#44204587)

Are you sure he didn't mean "koans"?

Question! (1)

Servaas (1050156) | about a year ago | (#44199325)

If we would lose the ozon layer would creating more of these clouds be a possible solution? TM by the way.

Quote or Prophecy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199335)

... But we do know it was us that scorched the sky...

Cloud size (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199495)

Just how big a cloud can 10^6 kg* [wikipedia.org] of water make?

*Chosen for topicality.

Re:Cloud size (3, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#44199781)

At half a gram per cubic metre [mentalfloss.com] or 0.0005 kg/m^3, your 10^6 kg would make a cloud of 2 cubic kilometers, or two typical cumulus clouds.

FUD (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199659)

Ohh the crazy things the Oil Industry P.R. agencies do in order to blame everything else, so CO2 does not become culprit of their multi billion dollar mess.

Re:FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199751)

Funny thing about clouds... they increase reflectivity. As the temperatures go up more water vapour goes up into the sky to form clouds, which reflect incoming light and heat and provide a cooling effect. i.e.: it's self-regulating.

Clouds (2)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about a year ago | (#44199871)

Funny thing about clouds... they increase reflectivity. As the temperatures go up more water vapour goes up into the sky to form clouds, which reflect incoming light and heat and provide a cooling effect. i.e.: it's self-regulating.

They reflect incoming light. and outgoing heat.

To first order, in fact, clouds don't have a significant effect on average temperature (if they reflect incident light and exiting infrared equally well, the effects cancel). They do have a big effect on the day/night temperature variation (cloud-free days have high daytime temperatures and low nighttime temperature.

Re:FUD (3, Informative)

hawkfish (8978) | about a year ago | (#44199933)

Funny thing about clouds... they increase reflectivity. As the temperatures go up more water vapour goes up into the sky to form clouds, which reflect incoming light and heat and provide a cooling effect. i.e.: it's self-regulating.

This is Richard Linzen's "Iris" hypothesis. One of the few plausible bits of actual science from the so-called climate skeptics. Unfortunately, it seems not to work and was thoroughly refuted [skepticalscience.com] about ten years ago.

Re:FUD (0)

budgenator (254554) | about a year ago | (#44200355)

Well if it was refuted by the whackaloons at skepticalScience, then it's obviously true.

Re:FUD (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44200711)

It was refuted by, among others, his own department, including his own doctoral students using his own and then later results. Actually refute is too strong a word because the effect was more precisely quantified and found to be far smaller than expected. Heat is reflected just not as much as was initially suggested.

Re:FUD (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year ago | (#44201029)

Richard Linzen's "Iris" hypothesis has be weighed by Science and found wanting. Nothing in Science prevents scientists from researching the Iris idea further but the vast majority won't because they have already debunked it to their own satisfaction and found something more interesting.

In less kind words Linzen's book is like the popular "Chariots of gods" from the 70's in that it attempts to baffle lay-people with speculative bullshit that just "sounds right".

Re:FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199997)

Tats why Venus is so cool.

Re:FUD (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44202589)

Others have pointed out that it doesn't actually work that way, but not why.

Clouds are made out of water, water absorbs UV (rather than reflecting it) and radiates IR. But it radiates it in all directions. It takes about two feet of liquid water to absorb all of the UV, which is why you can still get a sunburn on a cloudy day. UV is still coming through, and now (due to the influence of the clouds) it's coming in at all angles. UV coming in at an angle has less chance to be reflected into space, and more chance to hit the ground. Meanwhile, much of the IR radiated by the clouds will strike the planet. So in fact, the amount of energy reflected by the clouds is not nearly as much as you might think. And much of what is reflected is reflected not by the top layer of clouds, but by a subsequent layer. Some of that will simply be reflected down again. In the process it's also lending heat energy to the atmosphere, which will be released over time; some of it outwards into space, and some of it downwards into Earth.

TL;DR clouds are not made of mylar, HTH

Space Traffic May Be Creating More Clouds (4, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#44199693)

Good, because I'm going to need more storage space pretty soon.

Re:Space Traffic May Be Creating More Clouds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44201609)

Yes, but will the nano-chemtrails effect my plasma during storm-surges or ionospheric tidal anomalies?
Might a swell go for the big-ass projecTor......

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44199733)

And I may be He-Man.

I'd worry about planes first... (5, Interesting)

slew (2918) | about a year ago | (#44199903)

FWIW, there is some indication that Noctilucent clouds in the mesosphere have been only been around since the industrial revolution times (since there aren't really any earlier descriptions of the phenomena in recorded history unlike other atmospheric anomolies like auroras or sundogs), so it's a bit presumputous that the effect has been greatly effected by space traffic vs some other human terrestrial source. It is also suspected that since this phenomena appears to also track the solar cycle, the most recent solar cycle (24) got off to a late start (by a couple of years), and they also noted this phenomena was a bit higher than normal the last couple of years and they don't really know much about this phenomena, so it's hard to get too excited about this yet...

On the other hand, there is much more airplane traffic vs space traffic and airplane contrails apparently have a much larger effect.

Rocket waste volume (2)

Fishchip (1203964) | about a year ago | (#44201065)

Quite apart from all this wonderful science being thrown around, which is quite beyond poor old me, would there even be enough waste water being left by the rockets to account for these vasty high clouds? They're very small things, comparatively. And as slew mentions, if it were airplane contrails, there's a lot more air traffic than surface-to-space.

Re:Rocket waste volume (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44201655)

Yes, but will the chemtrail-nanoparticles effect my plasma tv during hurricanes, storm-surges, and ionic tidal anomalies in the stratae above the Mesosphere?
Makes me mad to think about how much was invested in my plasma, should have opted for the big-old projector.....

Posting from Vandenberg and this iS BULL S*** (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44201383)

OK, a rocket is big and loud and FAST....

That is why I am calling shenanigans on this.

It punches through 100,000 feet in a minute expending the last 14 minutes of exhaust up above the real atmosphere before it hits orbit.

There you go! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44201473)

My mother used to complain that every time a rocket or shuttle launch was reported on TV, the weather would deteriorate over the next few weeks, Every time it rained, "Its those damn rockets!!!".

Seems she might have had a point all along.....

Its something she would havel enjoyed knowing.
*sigh*

Re:There you go! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44203469)

You can tell her all about it when you 'visit' her in the fruit cellar later.

Truly, times have changed (2)

vikingpower (768921) | about a year ago | (#44202035)

"Rocket traffic". The first time ever I saw these two words written together as a new, compound expression for a new concept. The XXIst century has very well begun :-))

Broken clouds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44202141)

All the broken clouds I see today must be the result of a broken rocket. Obviously the malfunctioning rocket in Russia recently has a widespread environmental effect.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>