The impact of clouds on climate change

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How to accurately measure weather, such as rain, overcast and snow? How much rainfall can we expect in the upcoming days? What action should cities take to deal with storm water? And what effect do clouds have on climate change? Having precise information about these topics is useful for businesses, cities and other climate organizations.

Clouds play a crucial role in climate change

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Clouds reflect sunlight at the top and retain heat underneath. If you would take away all the clouds, the overall temperature will increase by 10 degrees Celcius. Therefore clouds play a crucial role in climate change.

Due to Co2 emissions, the clouds are changing too. And, in their turn, changing clouds have an effect on the global warming. So these events influence each other. We want to understand these processes. Does an increase in the overall temperature on earth lead to more or fewer clouds? And what is the influence of these changing clouds exactly? Will this result in reduced or greater global warming?

As an effect of climate change, there will be more extreme rainfall in the future. Cities need to take the right measures to absorb all this rainwater. But what should they do exactly? This is pretty complex. You should know for example how much rain is forecasted. I am continually working to improve measurement instruments for accurate forecasts.

Practical Examples

We collaborate with several institutions and companies and also with the municipality of Rotterdam. For example, the city is experimenting with water squares. You can use these squares as a buffer to collect excessive storm water. Parking garages can be used as a buffer by creating a storm water storage basin in the garage.  But when do you decide to open the buffers to let the water in? You need accurate observations of the rainfall for this.

Biography

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My name is Herman Russchenberg. I am head of the TU Delft Climate Institute, which brings together TU Delft researchers working on all aspects of climate and climate change. My own research involves investigating the role of clouds and dust particles in the atmosphere. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. We need to have a good understanding of what we can expect in the future. For example, cities need to take the right measures to absorb storm water. And the energy industry needs reliable models to make solar panels and wind turbines more efficiently. The TU Delft Climate Institute conducts effective empirical research to develop reliable models.

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Social and Commercial opportunities

Companies increasingly use our knowledge to build atmospheric radar systems. I expect that the demand for these systems will increase enormously, because in the future each city would need its own atmospheric radar system to predict how much rain or snow is coming and what measures they should take to prevent floods.

The knowledge we have about cloud formation is also very useful for the energy industry. You can, for example, increase the efficiency of solar panels if you know how much sunshine you can expect. The same is true for wind turbines. They work more efficiently if you know how much wind is expected.