UA team creates new instrument to study high atmosphere clouds

Published: Thursday, November 25, 2021 - 10:45am
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A team of doctoral students from the University of Arizona developed an instrument to study high-atmosphere clouds in a way that hasn’t been done before. 

The clouds being studied are invisible to the naked eye due to how thin they are. 

But they still play a role in the climate by how much light they reflect or hold onto, which can be viewed with thermal infrared tools. Studying these clouds will give climatologists a better view of  local and global climates. 

Doctoral student Kira Hart Shanks received funding from NASA to send a device into the atmosphere with a high-altitude balloon in August. Her team was able to prove the technology worked.

“We got incredibly lucky, you know we had this beautiful monsoon season and on the day we launched we had lot of really exciting cloud activity so we were actually able to measure this polarized signal coming from both water and what we believe to be mixed-phase or combination water-ice clouds," Kira said. 

The goal now is to send the instrument into space on a NASA CubeSat, which is like a miniature satellite. But that timeframe has not been set.