17 May 2022 | Category: CloudRoots Amazonia

Does the rainforest talk to the clouds?

By Jordi Vila

Professor Meteorology and Air Quality at Wageningen Universi...

Manaus, February 2022, 8 AM. Already hot and humid. The CloudRoots Amazonia 22 field experiment starts. It is planned for August 2022, but preparations are well in advance due to the complexity of the experiment. With a team of the Meteorology of Air Quality Group together with two groups from Utrecht University, we aim to understand how the Amazonian rainforest controls the formation and intensity of clouds. Or the other way around: do clouds and their shading influence the Amazonian rainforest?

It is easier to say it than to demonstrate it. But this is the raison d’être of CloudRoots: to investigate how the disciplines of biology, atmospheric composition and meteorology intersect by observing and modelling how clouds and the rainforest are related to each other. This blog will describe this journey.

Meeting of the rivers

We are indeed in Manaus and in February. The rainy season. Oscar Hartogensis and I are walking towards the Amazonia river, named in honor of the native warriors that fought the conquistador Orellana at the end of the 16th century. We woke up after a short night, and I have to admit that I am very excited. After more than ten years working on topics related to the Amazonia, I can finally see it. It is in fact called it the Solimões river.

Downtown Manaus, where the Amazonian warrior merges with the river

Manaus, the city of the mother of Gods, is located in a strategic position. It is close to where the black waters of the Rio Negro encounter the sandy-colored waters of the Solimões. The locals call it “Encontro das Aguas” (Meeting of the waters). Manaus was a booming city at the end of the 19th century when rubber barons were living in full swing, constructing beautiful mansions, a main market with complicated iron structure and an Opera House. All to mimic Paris and be better.

The Opera House in downtown Manaus.

On our way down to the river, we can feel this past glory. We are getting closer. We already start to feel the river breeze and then suddenly we experience the immensity of a river that seems it is endless. The river view with an immense cloud (photo 3) brings us back to our objective: clouds, and how they interact with the rainforest. And it is also telling us that we are in the rainy season and soon, very soon, a heavy shower will be actively bringing a curtain of rain over Manaus. Back on time at the hotel, we can  see from our shelter how an innocent shallow cumulus has developed in a huge deep convective.

Journey to the heart of the Amazonia

Cumulonimbus hanging over the Solimões river

Time to pack, we will be collected tomorrow at 6 AM to drive and navigate for more than 7 hours to reach the 325-meter Amazonia Tall Tower Observational (ATTO). Located in the heart of the Amazonia basin, and in a still pristine region, it will be the main base of our field experiment CloudRoots Amazonia 22. The tower is a unique joint venture and active collaboration between  German and Brazilian scientists. The CloudRoots team is very lucky to join them during the month of August.

Through this blog, we will show the day by day of the field experiment. CloudRoots will be conducted by a group and expertise from ecophysiologists, atmospheric chemists and meteorologists. We will describe progress doing field work and our quest to understand how clouds and the rainforest are interacting, but also our frustrations. We are also inviting people to ask questions related to this journey at the heart of the Amazonia!

By Jordi Vila

Professor Meteorology and Air Quality at Wageningen University & Research

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