“Ready by 2024” KIST Unveils New Artificial Cloud Chamber Dr. Seongsoo Yeom Oversees Research into Artificial Rainfall and the Construction of a Cloud Chamber
- Date : 22-02-10
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“Did you know that climate predictions from various models differ a lot? I think this is because of a lack of understanding of clouds. We can only prepare for the future if we accurately predict climate change. This is a challenge that cannot be avoided any longer. As such, we will research and develop the technology necessary to predict future environmental changes and to help humans adapt to these changes.”
As the Korea Institute for Science and Technology (KIST) unveiled its new Climate and Environmental Research Institute in July, Dr. Seong Soo Yum began his tenure as its Director-General (R&D part) by declaring his commitment to the Institute. Dr. Yum, an expert in cloud observation and numerical modeling research, will lead the Climate and Environmental Research Institute alongside Director Jinyoung Kim. Together, they aim to set up a new research and development (R&D) enforcement strategy and promote the development of integrated, innovative technologies to respond to future climate disasters.
“Clouds are at the center of climate change research,” Dr. Yum asserted, explaining that a proper understanding of clouds may help address the impacts of climate change on water resources. Therefore, he plans to carry out intensive cloud-related research at KIST, stating, “We will create artificial clouds through cloud chambers and research the regulation of precipitation to minimize the impacts of droughts and flooding due to climate change.”
Although cloud research is still in the early phases, KIST is eager to take on the challenge.
Scientists have long been giving warnings of the seriousness of climate change and have been conducting mitigation-related research. However, much of this research has focused on renewable energy sources, or on the reduction and capture of carbon emissions. The Climate and Environmental Research Institute, however, has a different vision. Its goal is to gain a scientific understanding of natural phenomena and develop innovative technologies to preemptively adapt to the impacts of climate change. This makes KIST the only organization to be actively pursuing R&D specifically to respond to future global environmental change.
As a professor and the first to jointly working at the Climate and Environmental Research Institute, Dr. Yum commended KIST, stating, “With climate change becoming more serious, the importance of atmospheric science and cloud research is being emphasized. It is significant that KIST has quickly reacted to this global trend and risen to the challenge of conducting research that has never been done before.” He added, “I feel a responsibility to use this opportunity, because atmospheric scientists will have a lot of work to do.”
Dr. Yum will oversee cloud-related research at the Institute, something KIST has never attempted before. There, his team will develop systems to understand cloud processes and eventually contribute to accurately predicting climate change, as well as artificial precipitation and cloud dissipation technologies that can bring rain to drought-stricken regions and prevent rainfall in flood-prone areas.
The first step will be to develop new materials to artificially trigger or prevent rainfall. This includes condensation nuclei that can turn ordinary clouds into rain clouds and new materials that could possibly reduce precipitation. “Research on artificial rainfall is active in the U.A.E. and China, but our cloud and atmospheric conditions are different from theirs. Any development of new materials must be suited to this region,” he said, emphasizing the importance of securing independent technology.
A chamber will be constructed to produce artificial clouds. While the shape and size of the chamber is still under discussion, it has been decided to use various aerosols and water vapor content to create various clouds. “We are collecting the necessary information to build the chamber, hoping to have it ready by 2024. We will bring in new experts in the field of climate change technology, and we will discover the role clouds play in climate change,” he said.
The chamber will also be used to test the performance of new materials. Dr. Yum has been working on artificial rainfall simulation models for some years, and his research is expected to gain momentum. “We will be able to measure what is happening inside the cloud chamber first-hand. Given the importance of simulations, we will work to foster synergy with the computational scientists at KIST,” he said.
Are there any other cloud chambers in the country? According to Dr. Yum, there are only about seven or eight cloud chambers around the world that are actively in operation. Even in the United States, a country at the forefront of scientific research, currently only one is actively used in researcher. In South Korea, Dr. Yum and the National Institute of Meteorological Sciences are working together to build a cloud chamber and Dr. Yum is participating as a consultant.
According to Dr. Yum, “The National Institute of Meteorological Sciences has a chamber that expands air to create clouds, which would be different from KIST’s method.” He added, “We have been speaking with the people who lead a new cloud chamber design project in the U.S. to gather information. As climate change is an issue that all of humanity must address, research should be conducted in a collaborative manner.”
If this project succeeds, KIST plans to use drones to study actual clouds. This will be accomplished through collaboration with the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, which possesses significant unmanned aircraft technology.
“There is no guarantee that this research will be successful,” says Dr. Yum. However, he declares, “With our firm determination, the climate change adaptation technology we need can be developed…”
Every five to six years, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases a comprehensive report that presents research results on predicted climate change scenarios from various countries. However, although the best technology from around the world is used to predict changes in the Earth’s climate and environment, the results vary. Dr. Yum explained that the unattainable true value represents the uncertainty of climate change prediction.
“Recently, a lot of attention has been paid to cloud-related research, with many researchers citing clouds as one of the most crucial causes of uncertainty, but such research is not as easy as it seems,” he claims. “As in the saying that absurd dreamers ‘grasp at floating clouds’, clouds are above our heads, but difficult to reach and measure. The amount of water vapor held in each cloud and their aerosol distribution also change daily, which is another barrier to research.”
Given the setbacks, Dr. Yum said, “There is no guarantee that this research will be successful.” He further stressed, “Unlike universities which tend to conduct research independently, this Institute is a team-based organization where many people work in synergy with one another. Through firm determination, the climate change adaptation technology we need can be developed, provided that we don’t rush, and remain focused on atmospheric science.”
Finally, Dr. Yum said, “There are simulations that artificially eliminate high clouds that increase global temperatures. We call such interventions ‘geoengineering’, the large-scale manipulation of the Earth’s physical and chemical properties. Although geoengineering is currently limited to simulations, it may be our last option if the impacts of climate change become too severe. We should all do our utmost in our respective positions to avoid a situation wherein nature must be artificially manipulated. Therefore, we will ensure that KIST retains its focus on preemptively responding to climate change.”