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Earth Space

Space Traffic May Be Creating More Clouds 57

seagirlreed writes "Rocket traffic may be adding water to the Earth's mesosphere, leading to more very high clouds in this layer of thin air on the edge of space. From the article: 'A team of researchers looking for an expected decrease in the number of clouds in this layer, as solar activity and heating have ramped up, were instead surprised to find an increase in the number and brightness of clouds in this near-outer-space region over the last two years. ... The source of the water to make the clouds is a puzzle, Siskind explained, because there is not much sign of it coming up into the mesosphere. On the other hand, rockets and, until recently, shuttles roaming in space could rain water exhaust down into the mesosphere.'"
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Space Traffic May Be Creating More Clouds

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  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Friday July 05, 2013 @06:03PM (#44199237) Homepage Journal

    with 1 stone... put lots of rockets up and build something cool like a Elysium space city, or maybe a space elevator. And solve global warming at the same time!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Solve? Water vapour is a pretty good insulator. Increasing the water in the atmosphere increases global warming.

      • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Friday July 05, 2013 @11:34PM (#44200995) Homepage Journal

        water != cloud

        white cloud reflects a lot of sun's radiation back into space. Yes water vapor is a strong greenhouse gas, but we're talking about more efficient trapping of [heat that has been greatly reduced by higher albedo before it ever hit the ground]. Net effect is reduced overall heat.

        Just go out on a cloudy summer day vs. a cloudless one and feel the effect.

        • by dryeo ( 100693 )

          Works really well for Venus. Coolest planet in the solar system due to all those clouds.
          On Earth you can go out on a cloudy night vs a clear night and feel the effect.

          • Venus is a lot closer to the sun.

            Put Venus in the same orbit as Earth and see what the temperature is.

            • by dryeo ( 100693 )

              Venus is a lot closer to the sun.

              It isn't that much closer to the Sun, much less then Mercury which is cooler then Venus. There's a reason that Venus was expected to be inhabitable until the temperature was first measured by radar in '59 or so and it was so surprising how hot Venus is.

              Put Venus in the same orbit as Earth and see what the temperature is.

              Close enough to what it currently is. The greenhouse effect is pretty powerful, even the Earth is 40 Kelvins hotter then it would be without an atmosphere and Venus is more like 400 Kelvins hotter even with it's very high albedo.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Probably worth noting that this refers to noctilucent clouds (NLCs) which occur in polar regions.

    The findings of NASA's AIM satellite are, as of yet, inexplicable. Therefore, what's mentioned here is purely speculative.

    • Are you saying /doters are posting speculative assumptions to explain inconclusive observations.
      Them is fightin words, sir! Pistols at sunrise.

    • Since there hasn't been a significant increase in rocket launches in the last two years, rocket launches can't be the explanation for an increase in noctilucent clouds in the last two years.

  • If we would lose the ozon layer would creating more of these clouds be a possible solution? TM by the way.

  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Friday July 05, 2013 @07:13PM (#44199693)

    Good, because I'm going to need more storage space pretty soon.

  • by slew ( 2918 ) on Friday July 05, 2013 @07:49PM (#44199903)

    FWIW, there is some indication that Noctilucent clouds in the mesosphere have been only been around since the industrial revolution times (since there aren't really any earlier descriptions of the phenomena in recorded history unlike other atmospheric anomolies like auroras or sundogs), so it's a bit presumputous that the effect has been greatly effected by space traffic vs some other human terrestrial source. It is also suspected that since this phenomena appears to also track the solar cycle, the most recent solar cycle (24) got off to a late start (by a couple of years), and they also noted this phenomena was a bit higher than normal the last couple of years and they don't really know much about this phenomena, so it's hard to get too excited about this yet...

    On the other hand, there is much more airplane traffic vs space traffic and airplane contrails apparently have a much larger effect.

  • Quite apart from all this wonderful science being thrown around, which is quite beyond poor old me, would there even be enough waste water being left by the rockets to account for these vasty high clouds? They're very small things, comparatively. And as slew mentions, if it were airplane contrails, there's a lot more air traffic than surface-to-space.
  • by vikingpower ( 768921 ) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @05:04AM (#44202035) Homepage Journal
    "Rocket traffic". The first time ever I saw these two words written together as a new, compound expression for a new concept. The XXIst century has very well begun :-))

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