Tags: clouds | moving | higher | climate change | satellite

Clouds Moving Higher and Toward Poles, Deflecting Fewer Sun Rays

Image: Clouds Moving Higher and Toward Poles, Deflecting Fewer Sun Rays
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

By    |   Tuesday, 12 Jul 2016 11:36 AM

Clouds are moving higher into the atmosphere and closer to the poles while subtropical dry zones are expanding, according to a researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.

The research team analyzed satellite cloud records dating between 1983 and 2009, confirming computer climate models that predicted these changes as a result of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

“What this paper brings to the table is the first credible demonstration that the cloud changes we expect from climate models and theory are currently happening,” study lead author Joel Norris, a climate researcher at Scripps, said in a news release.

The changes could exacerbate global warming, according to the International Business Times.

Clouds are among the most important variables in climate, with roles in both cooling and heating the planet.

Clouds closer to the poles reflect less heat from the sun back into space, The Washington Post explained. Also, clouds higher in the atmosphere create a thicker blanket to trap infrared radiation.

"I guess what was surprising is that a lot of times we think of climate change as something that's going to occur in the future," Norris said, according to NPR. "This is happening right now. It's happened during my lifetime — it was a bit startling."

Clouds cover about 70 percent of the planet at any given time, according to NPR, and their constant movement and change has made it difficult for scientists to predict their effect on climate change.

Variations in satellite technology have also complicated the research, with different instruments and orbit changes influencing the data measured. The Scripps team corrected those variations in their study to allow for a more accurate comparison over time.

Kevin Trenberth, a climate researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, is reserving judgment on the study, saying more work is needed to better understand clouds.

"This is a very good attempt to try and get a handle on this, but I don't think it's the final answer," Trenberth told NPR.

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Clouds are moving higher into the atmosphere and closer to the poles while subtropical dry zones are expanding, according to a researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.
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2016-36-12
Tuesday, 12 Jul 2016 11:36 AM
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