Satellites see the planet from space, and scientists and citizen scientists measure clouds from the ground in a series of measurements like snapshots, but models connect all of the pieces like a movie. This helps us understand how clouds move, how they change, and how things like aerosols (tiny particles in the atmosphere) influence cloud formation.

Clouds need aerosols or particles to form. The particles act as a tiny seed on which water can condense into a cloud. However, some particles, especially those produced by people, are too tiny to be an effective cloud seed. This means that aerosols sometimes encourage cloud formation and rain, but they suppress cloud formation or change cloud types in other circumstances. Scientists are working on understanding the difference, and your cloud observations can help.

The image below provides the current model output for Aerosol measurements across the world. Are there aerosols over your home in this model? Did you observe clouds today? How do your observations match up with the model? 

More about the model

The Goddard Earth Observing System Model, Version 5 (GEOS-5) is a system of models integrated using the Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF). GEOS-5 systems are being developed in the GMAO to support NASA's earth science research in data analysis, observing system modeling and design, climate and weather prediction, and basic research.

To experiment with the data, the detailed web viewer can be reached here.


Did you Know?

Altocumulus during Virginia Summer

Notice the very puffy, cottonball look of the clouds at the top of this image. Compare to cumulus and cirrocumulus photos to contras the apparent size of the cloud cells.

Photo by Lin Chambers.