Climate Agents: The Double Trouble of Aerosols

NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies , New York City

NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

iStock Photo

A team of high school student and teacher researchers, led by NASA Scientist, Barbara Carlson, work at the internationally renowned lab, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), where they study climate change. Hidden away above Tom's Restaurant in New York City, the team, along with other scientists from NASA and Columbia University, investigates global operations and threats to Earth’s climate.

Their current mission – uncover a global plot to turn temperature-cooling agents, known as AEROSOLS, into double agents that warm our planet. Aerosols agents are tiny airborne particles whose mission is to warm or cool Earth’s temperature and, just like secret agents they go largely unnoticed by humans. But now a growing number of human activities are causing more aerosol agents to become dangerous warming operatives that have been turned to the dark side - by the addition of soot.

The GISS team must find out the true identities of all aerosol agents in order to figure out their overall effect on Earth's climate. Which ones are switching sides to warm the planet and which ones remain loyal cooling agents? How many are switching sides from cooling to warming agents and where are they located? Answering these and other questions about the role of aerosols in Earth's climate is a time sensitive mission. If aerosol double agents mask an even greater amount of global warming than is currently being reported, we need to know before it is too late to reverse.