Public Release: 

The past and future of cloud research

International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project gathers for 30th anniversary conference on clouds and climate

City College of New York

More than 80 scientists, climatologists and weather experts from across the globe will descend on The City College of New York this month to take part in a conference celebrating the collection of three decades-worth of worldwide satellite observations of the properties, behavior and effects of clouds.

The International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) will mark its 30th anniversary as a multinational collaboration to collect and analyze satellite data on clouds with its "ISCCP at 30" conference, to take place from April 22-25 in Steinman Lecture Hall at the Grove School of Engineering.

Conference participants will review and assess the latest findings on how cloud distributions, variations and properties shape weather and climate, and will discuss the future of cloud research. The event features fourteen invited presentations and 40 papers contributed by international scientists. The City College of New York and the Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology (CREST) Center - a City University of New York partner of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - will host the event.

The increase in extreme weather events in recent years has underscored the value and rarity of collecting such long-term global weather data. Far-reaching data analysis projects like the ISCCP help address questions about the workings of the global climate system, its future changes and the role cloud processes play in events like Superstorm Sandy and Hurricanes Irene and Katrina.

Started as a short-term effort to examine raw satellite data on clouds around the world, the ISCCP has become a comprehensive 30-year endeavor to record multiple weather parameters and develop tools to analyze and project various aspects of climate behavior.

"We had a vision born of a purely scientific viewpoint - in order to understand climate we needed to know how clouds work," said Dr. William B. Rossow, a distinguished professor of electrical engineering at The City College of New York and a member of the CREST Center.

Professor Rossow has led the ISCCP as head of its global processing center since its inception as the first project of the World Climate Research Program (WCRP). He served as chairman of the working group on data management and analysis for WCRP's Global Energy and Water Exchanges Radiation Panel. ISCCP has served as the prototype for efforts to establish a global exchange of data and cooperation among multinational agencies to produce tools and algorithms that derive other useful information.

"We have done what we set out to do," said Professor Rossow. "We can tell you how clouds effect radiation and we are about to complete the first description of the whole water cycle. I think we are really in a position to establish how clouds affect climate, not just statically, but how they feed back on climate change. We are close to that scientific goal."


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