My sabbatical is long over, alas, but like any good project it has reverberations and influences that last well beyond the submission date. So I am going to keep this blog going, as a place to air thoughts as I learn more about climate science and its attendant implications for life on earth and for all our lives.
I’m going to start with clouds, because they are beautiful and interesting and vital to us in many ways. They are also one of the important unknowns in climate science, as we’ll see below. As I learn about them, traveling dizzyingly across scales from my home base in quark physics (10-15 m) to cloud physics (10-7 m and beyond), I am going to use this blog as a repository for information and references. But I want to begin by acknowledging the place clouds have in human life and culture. Like most people raised in India, I associate clouds at the end of the relentless summer with the promise of the monsoons. Seeing the thunderheads piled high and dark in the sky before the first rain is an utterly thrilling experience that implies fields of plenty, food security, a cool respite from deadly heat, the washing away of summer dust, the world made anew. No wonder clouds are the subject of innumerable songs and dramas! In the ancient Sanskrit drama Meghadutam, by the poet Kalidasa, the central character is a cloud messenger that traverses the length and breadth of the country. Thinking of clouds today I ponder the mixed messages they are giving scientists with regard to their role in Earth’s warming climate.