Pat Shingleton: "Just Point and Click..."
For many years, knowledge of cloud properties relied on satellite observations. The information these images provide can be limited and do not depict differences in cloud thickness. This can influence the amount of light they reflect and is especially accurate for cumulus humilis or "fair weather" clouds. These types of clouds form and disperse rapidly and are hard to detect. The Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres has found a simple solution to the difficulty in cloud observations as the digital camera has come to the rescue. Researchers used a commercially available camera to take images of the thin clouds over north-central Oklahoma over a seven minute time period. The photos were captured from distances of 2 kilometers with a resolution of 4 centimeters representing a finer magnitude than satellite applications. The pixel-by-pixel analysis revealed variations in the structure of the clouds including radiance and optical depth. The digital cameras will give scientists a better understanding of cloud physics and improved climate models.
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