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Clouds and Climate
How does the climate affect clouds?

Now we know a little more about clouds' effects on climate. What about the effect of climate on clouds? These interactions are not as clearly understood. In fact, when scientists use computer models to predict future climates, the biggest source of uncertainty comes from interactions between the climate and clouds. This has been the case for decades, and was a large motivating factor for the creation of CMMAP.

climate3 Many climate models do a great job of simulating our current climate, but there is huge disagreement between models about the overall effect of clouds in the future climate. Some models predict that clouds will continue to have a cooling effect, while others predict they will have a warming effect.

These differences are mostly due to uncertainty regarding whether climate change will result in more or less reflected solar radiation. Many factors other than the amount of clouds (such as the number and size of cloud droplets) affect how much solar radiation is reflected or absorbed. This uncertainty involves both deep convective and low level clouds, with recent research indicating the lack of understanding of the latter group is the biggest contributor.

Next page   -> How do areosols affect clouds?

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