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A schematic diagram describing the impacts of cloud-surface-coupling on the aerosol-cloud-interaction. When a cloud is coupled with the surface, a cloud is formed near the top of the planetary boundary-layer (PBL) that interacts strongly with the well-mixed aerosol, whereas they have little interaction under decoupled conditions. As aerosol alters cloud microphysics (more aerosol leads to more cloud droplets of smaller particle size that makes cloud brighter), solar radiation reflected by cloud is more under coupled conditions than under decoupled conditions, or a stronger cooling effect as indicated by the orange arrows. As a result, lack of accounting for the cloud-surface coupling tends to result in an underestimation of aerosol indirect radiative forcing, which is likely a major contributing factor to the systematic discrepancies between observation-based and model-based estimate of the aerosol cooling effect. Adapted from Su et al. (2024, Sci. Adv.).

Aerosols Affect Climate More Than We Think

A key to improve climate prediction is to improve understanding of the impact of aerosol on clouds, or commonly known as the aerosol-cloud-interaction according to a new study led by Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) researchers published today in Science Advances.

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How Will Clouds Affect Climate Change?

One of the most critical questions in climate research today is how global clouds will change in a warmer environment. Physical mechanisms in the atmosphere have the potential to moderate or accelerate the warming from greenhouse gases. These mechanisms are called feedbacks. Even with today’s improved forecasts, feedback from clouds is uncertain – meaning scientists don’t know how much Earth’s average temperature will warm as the CO2 atmospheric concentrations continue to increase. A new University of Maryland and NASA study attempts to reduce this uncertainty by constructing a long-term trend in cloudiness using NASA and NOAA satellite observations going back to 1980.

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April Showers Bring May Flowers … But With Drizzles Or Downpours?

As spring finally arrives in typical Maryland style – downpours – people take comfort in these wet days by dreaming of the blooms that the rain nurtures. However, a new study by an Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center researcher published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment shows that whether rainfall comes as drizzle events or downpours matters for plant growth.

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New Research Finds Climate-Critical Ocean Current System is Slowing

The global ocean has been heating up for decades, with records from the 1960s reporting a substantial rise in upper ocean heat content. Rising ocean temperatures also affect ocean currents, though there has yet to be a consensus on the strength or extent of those changes, or whether these changes will continue in the future. However, a new paper led by Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) scientist Alexey Mishonov documents, for the first time, a significant slowing of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a crucial ocean current system that plays a vital role in regulating Earth’s climate.

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Hydroelectric dam on the river, water discharge from the reservoir, aerial photography

Hydropower: Worldwide Transition to Low-Carbon Energy Could Threaten Ecologically Sensitive Rivers

The global transition towards a low-carbon future could substantially accelerate hydropower deployment in ecologically sensitive rivers, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Maryland’s Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) in collaboration with Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL)’s Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI) and Tufts University. Published in Nature Sustainability, the paper analyzes the future hydropower expansion in the world’s 20 most ecologically sensitive rivers under different socio-economic and energy sector development scenarios.

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University of Maryland Distinguished University Professor Ellen Williams Retires

Ellen D. Williams, a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Physics and the Institute for Physical Science and Technology at the University of Maryland and director of the university’s Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC), retired on December 30, 2023, after 42 years at the university. Following her official retirement, Williams is now a research professor of physics and executive director of ESSIC’s Cooperative Institute for Satellite Earth System Studies (CISESS).

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English: A top view scene of someone doing some research and going through the pages of a book and using a magnifying glass on it. The scene happens on a wooden background. There are also some other research related items in the scene, such as: sticky notes, pencil, ruler or notebook

ESSIC Launches Seed Grant Program

This week, Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) announced the selection of two recipients of the Seed Grant Program (ESGP), a new initiative to provide ESSIC scientists with internal funding mechanisms to carry out innovative research in pilot studies that have the strong potential to lead to future proposals for external funding.

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