NASA has sent a team of scientists and two research aircraft to Namibia as part of a mission to study how the interaction of smoke with clouds affects the climate.
The agency said Wednesday its Observations of Aerosols Above Clouds and their Interactions mission aims to determine if atmosphere cools down or warms up when aerosol particles from smoke mix with clouds.
“Human activities currently are estimated to be responsible for perhaps half of all the aerosol particles in the atmosphere,” said Robert Wood, a cloud scientist at the University of Washington and ORACLES deputy principal investigator.
“Smoke particles both reflect sunlight back to space, thus cooling the Earth, and absorb sunlight, which has the opposite effect of warming the Earth,” Wood added.
NASA said study results can facilitate efforts to update regional and global computer models that work to predict the future effects of climate change as well as reveal the impact of aerosols on regional coastal fisheries.
ORACLES will be based in Walvis Bay, Namibia, where NASA’s scientific team will collaborate with faculty and students from the Namibia University of Science and Technology, the space agency added.
The Namib Desert-based Gobabeb Research and Training Centre will provide ground-based remote sensing of the atmosphere for the mission, the agency added.
NASA’s P-3 and ER-2 aircraft will fly up to 20,000 and 65,000 feet, respectively, to collect cloud and aerosol samples that scientists will use to examine the behavior of aerosols in clouds.
ORACLES is a multi-year NASA Earth Venture suborbital investigation that involves more than 100 scientists from five NASA centers, two national laboratories, 10 U.S. universities and five African research institutions.
Earth Venture investigations work to study Earth system processes under NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder program.