Plankton is cooling the Earth by … making clouds?

Plankton is cooling the Earth by … making clouds?

A new study finds that tiny little plankton may be responsible for a big part of our climate situation.

A fascinating new study indicates that plankton, those tiny creatures in the sea that create green globs and blankets that whales like to munch on, are actually quite important in our Earth’s climate.

The study found that such microscopic creatures are indeed responsible for half of the cloud droplets in the Southern Ocean in the summer months — findings that could shed new light on how our climate works,¬†according to a Live Science report.

Marine phytoplankton live off sunlight and form masses of creatures that appear like green blotches in the ocean. But more than just acting as whale food, they give off aerosols that can change how clouds accumulate water droplets, with droplets appearing to double over the Southern Ocean in the summer when plankton is most plentiful.

By impacting these clouds, they are able to grow thicker and brighter, and therefore they can block out a lot of solar radiation. And it does more than keep the sunlight from hitting the Earth — the droplets actually reflect light back out of the atmosphere, causing a cooling effect that is quite important as concerns about Global Warming rise.

This marine life causes more water droplets to form, which means brighter clouds. The plankton gives off aerosols — microscopic particles that float up into the atmosphere and resulting in greater clumping of water droplets, therefore forming brighter and thicker clouds.

These findings could help scientists better understand the climate cooling process, and therefore better make climate change predictions. And it has resulted in some ideas of combating climate change, like using man-made aerosols to create larger and brighter clouds — something that could be the subject of more research.

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