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Published February 24, 2012, 06:55 PM

NASA data shows clouds have gotten closer

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - When you walk outside in the morning to take a look at our winter sky and storm headed our way, consider this. The earth's clouds you are looking at just got lower. Based on NASA satellite data the height of clouds has dropped by 1% the past 10 years. There is debate over what the implications are.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

When you walk outside in the morning to take a look at our winter sky and storm headed our way, consider this. The earth's clouds you are looking at just got lower. Based on NASA satellite data the height of clouds has dropped by 1% the past 10 years. There is debate over what the implications are.

Chicken Little knew all about it years ago. The sky was falling. The clouds were lower. Scientists have just released NASA data that confirms our clouds are about 130 feet lower than ten years ago. Some scientists will argue that the lower clouds could allow heat to escape the earth into space, reducing global warming. Others will tell you.....

Daryl Ritchison – WDAY StormTRACKER Meteorologist: “When things are cold they contract, when they are warm they expand. The reality is the earth's atmosphere has cooled in the last 10 years, therefore to me it just makes complete sense the clouds would lower from just that overall contraction.”

In the scheme of things the cloud research data is short and small - ten years of satellite data - but it’s certainly interesting. The data comes from a 1999 satellite with 9 cameras at different angles that produce images of clouds from around the world.

NDSU Climatologist Dr. Adna Akyuz says more research data over a longer period is needed before jumping to conclusions about the impact of lower clouds.

Dr. Adnan Akyuz – NDSU Climatologist: “Lower altitude clouds tend to cool the temperature as the higher altitudes tend to elevate the temperature, but we are not talking about 30 meters but 10,000-20,000 feet differences.”

One thing is for sure, for all the impact on our weather and moods, clouds, like Rodney Dangerfield, are poorly understood… and Chicken Little was a slightly ahead of his time.

That NASA satellite will be monitoring clouds for the next 8 years.

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