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“Seeing Clouds Clearly: Are They Cooling Us Down or Heating Us Up?”

“Though scientists know that clouds are critical to the climate system, their exact role is still uncertain. New studies are starting to fill in the knowledge gap. “

“On any given day, clouds spread across about two-thirds of the globe. They control global surface temperature more than any other single influencing factor, including greenhouse gases. And even though they are one of the most critical parts of the global climate system, clouds are still the greatest source of uncertainty when it comes to projecting how much Earth will heat up in the future.

But that's starting to change as scientists peer deep inside clouds to study changes at the microscopic level and use new satellites that capture the big picture. Depending how high and thick they are, and how much water and ice they contain, they either cool or heat the planet by reflecting incoming solar radiation back to space or trapping it at the surface, like a blanket.

For now, the overall effect of clouds is to cool the planet. But two new studies published recently in the journal Nature Geoscience suggest that clouds are likely to change in ways that will intensify global warming.”

Bob Berwyn reports for InsideClimate News November 10, 2020.