Oct. 30, 2017

Research team receives grant to analyze clouds

A Cleveland State University research team has received a $600,000 grant to help uncover behaviors of cloud formation and how they affect weather. The project seeks to transform weather prediction and climate modeling through better modeled cloud sizing.

Thijs Hues, an assistant professor of Physics at Cleveland State has received this $600,000 grant from the U.S Department of Energy so that his team can attempt to address this lack of knowledge.

Heus explained that clouds are the biggest uncertainty in the climate system. For instance, if clouds increase, the increased reflection of sunlight makes it a cooler temperature.

“If the temperature changes, the amount of clouds change. There are a bunch of those effects that we are not completely clear of how they work,” Hues said. “Because we don’t know how they work, that’s why clouds are one of the biggest unknowns.”

Heus said that one of the problems that the research team face is that clouds, especially smaller clouds, are difficult to interpret in weather simulations.

“One of the problems that we have is that clouds, especially smaller clouds, are 100 meters, 200 meters, maybe a few kilometers but a weather simulation has a resolution of maybe a kilometer, but more typically, 50 kilometers,” Hues said. “So that is basically one grid point here [in Cleveland] and one in Akron.”

Climate models now in use to understand cloud systems aren’t working well, according to Hues. He said they are not working well because the research team doesn’t exactly know what is going on.

The $600,000 grant is going to be split between Cleveland State and the University of Cologne in Germany. Hues will use some of this to hire and pay a graduate student and also a few undergraduate students to work with him to do the research. They are doing most of the computational work at the Ohio super computer in Columbus, which he said is a great asset.

With three years to complete his research, Heus’ goal is to learn and understand clouds and weather functions before the team of researchers starts experimenting with purposely modifying the clouds.

“The idea is, let’s do the research and understand what clouds are doing,” Hues said. “Let’s understand what the climate system is doing before we really start working with that.”


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