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News Release 11-096

Clouds, a Weapon Against Climate Change?

University of Georgia researchers define a missing link in how clouds are formed

Photo of clouds taken from a plane flying over Michigan.


Photo taken from a plane flying over Michigan.
Credit and Larger Version


May 11, 2011

View a video with Dr. William Whitman of the University of Georgia.

Some clouds cool the earth. But how are these clouds formed? How does the chemistry of the ocean affect their formation? Is this process affected by climate change? Can humans affect cloud formation to increase the cooling effect of clouds, having positive implications for the health of the planet?

Microbiologist William Whitman and marine scientist Mary Ann Moran of the University of Georgia think these are timely questions. They are coauthors of a paper that will appear in the May 12 issue of the scientific journal Nature. The research covered in this news release was funded primarily by the National Science Foundation's Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, along with the Division of Ocean Sciences.

Whitman and Moran's team of researchers discovered key bacterial genes that influence sulfur gas flux from seawater, with important implications for understanding the role of ocean bacteria in cloud formation. "We are now better able to evaluate the impacts of climate change on the process and the implications for cloud manipulation, which has been proposed as a means to mitigate global warming," said Whitman.

Read more at the University of Georgia news service.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Lisa-Joy Zgorski, NSF, (703) 292-8311, lzgorski@nsf.gov
Terry Marie Hasting, University of Georgia, (706) 542-5941, thasting@uga.edu

Program Contacts
Matthew D. Kane, NSF, (703) 292-7186, mkane@nsf.gov

Related Websites
Cloud's: The Wild Card of Climate Change, an NSF Special Report: http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/clouds/

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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Image of Dr. William Whitman of the University of Georgia.
View Video
William Whitman of the University of Georgia describes his discovery on cloud formation.
Credit and Larger Version