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Lessons and Modules

Introduction to Clouds


Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOESSAT) Photo: NESDIS, NOAA.

Letter to Researchers

TO: Cloud Researchers

FROM: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

You have the opportunity to explore storm clouds and climate change through the use of NASA climate research data obtained through satellite imaging. Your challenge is to investigate actual scientific research data on clouds and storms, and make your observations and interpretations available to NASA research scientists for review.

If the Earth's climate is changing, what will happen to the clouds? Will more clouds form? Will these clouds warm or cool the planet?

One possible scenario is that as the Earth warms, more low, thick clouds will form, and these clouds will reflect enough sunlight to cool the Earth's surface, counteracting a global warming.

Investigation Questions

  • What are the major types of clouds produced by storms?
  • Will these clouds help to cool or warm the Earth's surface?

Preliminary Information

Storms are the major producers of clouds in the Earth's atmosphere. If global warming takes place, that warming will have an effect on the "storminess" of the atmosphere, and, therefore, the number and types of clouds that these storms make.

Tech Notes

In order to utilize the different aspects of this module to their potential, you will need to use a graphical Web browser with Java and JavaScript enabled (version 4.0 or higher of either Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer recommended). Microsoft Excel 5.0 or higher is required to complete the data analysis section of the activity.