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February 24, 2012

NASA warns that the clouds are closer to the earth's surface

                          Imagen de nubes captada por uno de los instrumentos de la sonda Terra de la NASA

The height of the clouds has decreased on average by one percent during the first decade of this century and this could have consequences for the global climate in the future.

Scientists at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, analyzed records of the height of the clouds from March 2000 to February 2010.

They used data from the radiometer spectrum multiple angles, multiangle Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MISR, one of the instruments aboard the Terra probe.

MISR was built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, or JPL Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and is one of five instruments aboard Terra. The instrument uses nine cameras at different angles to produce images of clouds around the planet, allowing to measure their height and movement.

The study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, showed a decreasing trend in the height of the clouds.

Researchers found complex patterns, with decreases in height in some regions and increases in others. But globally, the average trend is a reduction in height.

Professor Roger Davies, one of the researchers, said that although the records do not cover a long enough time to show definitive changes, they do provide an indication that "something important could be happening."

Scientists will monitor the long-term cloud height to determine how significant are the changes to the temperature of the planet.

A consistent reduction in the height of the clouds could contribute to the loss of heat into space and reduce the temperature at the surface, which in turn could slow the effects of global warming.

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