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The sky's the limit



Earth's climate is noticeably changing over time. Glaciers are smaller, droughts last longer, and extreme weather events like fires, floods and hurricanes occur more frequently. PNNL researchers involved in the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program are working to understand these phenomena through improved cloud representations in the computer models that simulate changes in the earth's climate.

The ARM Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, addresses the impact of clouds on the energy balance of the climate system and improves the treatment of clouds and radiation in climate models.

In order to increase the understanding of clouds and other atmospheric processes, ARM uses ground-based instruments to gather data. The instruments provide detailed measurements of radiometric and cloud properties, aerosol characterizations, and wind, temperature, and humidity measurements. The data come from ARM sites in three different climate regions; the Southern Great Plains, North Slope of Alaska and the Tropical Western Pacific. As part of a national user facility, these sites are available for use by scientists worldwide through a structured proposal process.

The data systems for the ARM Program collect, process, and transfer data streams of known and reasonable quality to the ARM data archive for long-term storage and delivery to users. Users interact with the data archive through a website, ordering specific data sets from an automated data storage system. Currently, the archive user list includes 2,100 registered users from nine U.S. agencies, 140 universities and 44 countries.

The ARM sites have become a standard for new climate research sites that are under development by other nations across the globe. The result is an international network of research sites. ARM's research efforts will have a lasting impact on the ability to simulate climate and adapt to future climate changes.

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