BAMS is Latest Publication to Spotlight Southern Great Plains-Based Cloud Photo Research

Published: 15 September 2017
A time series of photographs taken with a wide field-of-view camera shows the sky above the ARM Southern Great Plains observatory on July 31, 2015. The photos were taken in 4-second intervals. The red rectangle in image 3162 denotes locations of corresponding images with a narrow field-of-view camera.

The July 2017 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) highlighted a study that examined cloud structure through high-resolution photography from the ground. The research, which appeared in BAMS’ “Nowcast: News and Notes” section, took place at the ARM Research Facility’s Southern Great Plains (SGP) atmospheric observatory.

It’s not the first time this work has received high-profile recognition. In April, the American Geophysical Union publication Eos spotlighted the study.

Published in March by Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, the paper discussed an Atmospheric System Research-funded project in which scientists used a Fujifilm FinePix S1 digital camera to capture the sky directly above the SGP site in July and August of 2015. In a time series of images, the camera caught a cloud cluster 2 kilometers above the surface at 4-centimeter resolution—up to five orders of magnitude higher than satellites. Looking pixel by pixel, researchers discovered significant variation in the clouds’ structure, including differences in the extent to which light is scattered or transmitted through thin clouds.

Stephen E. Schwartz of Brookhaven National Laboratory authored the paper with Dong Huang, a former Brookhaven colleague who now works at Science Systems and Applications Inc. in Maryland, and Daniela Viviana Vladutescu of the New York City College of Technology (City University of New York).

“A key to the success of our study was the large suite of other measurements at the ARM SGP site,” Schwartz says. “We are still working on analysis from our initial deployment in July and August 2015, as well as looking for other opportunities for future deployments. In the meantime, we are excited about the ability of this camera and the analysis scheme we developed to determine optical depth of very thin clouds—clouds that are radiatively quite important, but not well, or even at all, represented in climate models.”

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The ARM Climate Research Facility is a DOE Office of Science user facility. The ARM Facility is operated by nine DOE national laboratories.