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Clouds and Climate

Clouds and Climate

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Published by: Shane Nesim Muriuki on Jul 26, 2012
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Reprinted from MOSAIC National Science Foundation Summer 1990, Vol. 21, No.2, pp. 2-11

CLOUDS AND CLIMATE: A CRITICAL UNKNOWN IN THE GLOBAL EQUATIONS by Mort La Brecque In philosophy it is ideas and matter; in theology, good and evil. If the notion of dualism--two immutable and opposing principles--has any place in the atmospheric sciences, it is to be found in the multifarious and impermanent shapes of clouds. Their brand of dualism is expressed through the climate system, where they simultaneously heat and cool the earth. Nothing more exotic than assemblages of condensed or crystallized water vapor, clouds affect both the shortwave radiation coming in from the sun and the longwa~ radiation returning to space from the surface of the earth. However, the two kinds of radiation are handled in decidedly different ways. Clouds appear white because they significantly reflect solar radiation, reducing the amount of radiation recelved at the earth's surface. Clouds also absorb some of this shortwave radiation, further reducing the amount that ultimately heats the earth's surface. On the other hand, because clouds are colder than the earth's surface (temperature decreases with altitude), they quantltatlvely reduce the lonqwave radiation from the earth emitted to space by absorbing some of it. The reduction in emitted longwa~ radiation heats the earth/atmosphere system, while the reduction of absorbed shortwave radiation cools it. But what is the net outcome of both effects operating together--the cloud radiative forcing? The answer, at least for the present, was recently provided by the first results from ERBE, the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment, a multisatellite National Aeronautics and Space Administration study launched in 1984. The study, which has been conducted by a scientific team that includes V. Ramanathan of the Uni~rsity of Chicago and six of his colleagues, indicates that for a typical month the global averaqe lonqwave cloud warming is about 31 watts per square meter, the shortwave cloud cooling about 45 to 52 watts. Thus, the cloud radiative forcing at this time is neqative, Clouds reduce the net radiation at the top of the atmosphere by about 14 to 21 watts per square meter each month and thereby act to cool the earth/atmosphere system. Feedback It is hard to exaggerate the significance of this cooling. According to some estimates, if all the clouds were somehow removed from the climate, the earth's averaqe temperature would rise by a substantial ten degrees Celsius. The effects of clouds' dualism in today's climate are clearly not symmetrical. This situation is not necessarily permanent, events that, by altering both the total amount of radiative forcing. Such alteration is not unlikely, by temperature differences at the surface of the however, The climate could change and set in motion a series of clouds and their global distribution, would change the cloud because clouds are a part of the circulation system that is affected earth as well as in the upper atmosphere.

The change in cloud radlatlve forcing caused by a change in climate is called cloud feedback. Should cloud feedback in a hypothetical, mutated climate be posltlve, the cloud radiative forcing, which at present is neqatlve, could become less neqative and cool the atmosphere less. Should cloud feedback be neqative, though, clouds would cool the world e~n more than they do today. These hypotheses are not merely academic exercises, of course. The earth and its occupants may soon face the consequences of an exacerbated greenhouse effect in the form of a warmer global climate, and a negati~ cloud feedback would obviously come in handy. The scenario of greenhouse warming is by now familiar: As human activity adds carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, the gases cause a decrease in the emission of longwave radiation to space just as clouds do. If the earth/atmosphere system absorbs the same amount of shortwave radiation, however, it must heat up to stay in balance with the sun. (The energy-conservation laws of physics demand that incoming and outgoing radiation be equal.) E~ntually, the planet will get hot enough to once again emit as much radiation as it absorbs.
sks.sirs.com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id=S1578505H-O-4693&type=ART&artno=0000003630&key=rainf ... 1/8

more shortwave solar radiation would reach the earth's surface..com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id=S1578505H-O-4693&type=ART&artno=0000003630&key=rainf .) In Cess's study. The higher a cloud is located in the atmosphere.. Cess and his colleagues wanted to isolate atmospheric feedbacks before they introduced the complications of cryospheric and oceanic feedbacks. Comparing the impact of clouds on the climate system from one simulation to the next yielded a cloudfeedback value for each of the 14 models. say..sirs. he says.. The resulting simulation was run for a period of only a few months (instead of. (The best insight available into the workings of the climate system comes from various general-circulation models. the usual climate-change simulation.. sks.e radiation to space. the di. the way in which they perform numerical calculations.ersity of New York at Stony Brook and 19 other atmospheric scientists.e a posltlve feedback. if that increase has no appreciable effect on the planet's absorption of solar radiation.. Although the models differ in a number of characteristics--their horizontal and . or warming effect.e feedback..e radiation would escape into space.. despite their similarities. a surrogate change was induced by first decreasing by two degrees Celsius the observed sea-surface temperature entered into the models--to provide a base reference climate--and then uniformly increasing that temperature four degrees Celsius. A model study This scenario is simple enough.eraged the clear and the overcast sky measurements made during simulations of both base and perturbed climates. who is one of Cess's 19 collaborators. Ramanathan. Next. 2/8 . all showed a decrease in the total amount of clouds caused by a reduction of relatlve humidity. emphatically agrees.7/24/12 sks.ergence is replaced by a more-or-Iess-uni. Most of the models did in fact produce a modest posltlve feedback although some generated .ery strong. to save costly computer time. in collaboration with V. A second characteristic all models share is an increase in high-altitude clouds. but the resulting cloud feedback is by no means straightforward. using July climate conditions to eliminate feedback processes induced by the presence of snow and ice. 50 years). Jeffrey Kiehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research..com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id=S1578505H-O-4693&type=ART&artno=0000003630&key=rainf . For example. which are elaborations of the paradigms meteorologists use to predict the weather. "Solving the problem of predicting clouds in general-circulation models. Other climate modelers will soon be making such comparisons with their own models. the less able it is to emit longwa. the models were manipulated to generate a forcing that would yield such a temperature. Instead. the models were not run in a doubled carbon dioxide mode. although more longwa. so an increase in high clouds might well ha. When the clear-sky measurements for base and perturbed climates are compared. the models had a thoroughly disquieting threefold variation in their response to climate change... the way their clouds are formed--many are slightly modified clones of other models and all more or less similar in construction. Cess notes. one of which was . has inaugurated this major effort. The effect of fewer clouds is not obvious because. Kiehl.. on the climate. Concurrence The results were reassuring in some respects--at least those on which the models were in agreement.ersal concordance." By comparing the cloud radlatlve forcing drawn from NCAR'S general-circulation model-the Community Climate Model-with the real-cloud radiative forcing measured by ERBE. "is going to be the major effort in modeling in the coming decade.. if they have not already begun doing so." he declares. Cloud feedback was determined by taking a cue from the way ERBE data are processed: The team separately a. This result suggests to him that the treatment of clouds in the models could be lmproved upon. which appears to be related to the greater convective activity associated with warm climates.ery strong positbe feedback and two generated negati. Seeking improvement Cloud feedback appears to account for the wide variation in the models' sensitivity to climatic change..sirs. That was the major finding of a recent comparison of the cloud feedbacks predicted for a global warming by 14 different generalcirculation models from seven countries.ertical resolutions. All told.. The study was conducted by an international team that included Robert Cess of the State Uni.

If the models are to approach verisimilitude. Parameterization General-circulation models divide the atmosphere into a grid. originally developed for weather forecasting in Europe.com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id=S1578505H-O-4693&type=ART&artno=0000003630&key=rainf .. the smallest box of which is about 500 kilometers on a side. in the course of a run. a method that Kiehl admits does not come close to duplicating the complexity of real cloud formation.7/24/12 sks. the cloud is removed from that layer. the strength of the boundary-layer inversion (a layer of warm air overlying cold air near the surface of the earth). heretofore absent from the Community Climate Model. in the next version of the Community Climate Model. That's the value of the ERBE data set. The comparison revealed several disparities between the model's computations and ERBE'S measurements. the Community Climate Model uses a relative-humidity index to generate clouds. In several studies the radiation budget of the model was improved dramatically when Slingo introduced cloud parameterization.." Some of the improvements to be made in the Community Climate Model will be coming from NCAR'S Anthony and Julia Slingo. depicts the effect of processes on a scale smaller than the smallest resolved size in a model. As a result NCAR'S present all-or-nothing approach to cloudiness--either the sky is totally covered with clouds or it is totally clear--is replaced with a more subtle fractional cloud methodology: The cloud cover in a given region at a given time depends on the current atmospheric structure. Not only are individual clouds much smaller than 500 kilometers by 500 kilometers. Julia Slingo's scheme.sirs." At present.com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id=S1578505H-O-4693&type=ART&artno=0000003630&key=rainf . "We don't have a controlled experiment to compare our theories with to see if we're getting any closer to reality or not. if not entirely eliminated. All the defects will be diminished. Julia Slingo's scheme can form nonprecipitating clouds like the marine stratocumulus of the subtropics.. However. he feels. The most striking was an excess of outgoing longwave radiation in clear-sky regions in the model. he points out. Another worker in cloud parameterization is Michael SchleSinger. To obtain a prediction of cloud cover with which to compare the one month of ERBE data--from April 1985--the model was run through six annual cycles. they are composed of water droplets or ice crystals only millionths of a meter in size. Like the cloud parameterization currently used in the Community Climate Model.. and clouds over deep. In recent years. the Slingos have been working on different aspects of cloud parameterization for the model. If. the process by which modelers have chosen to solve this conundrum. it puts a cloud there. Schlesinger maintains that the cloud-radiation parameterization that he developed with Jai-Ho Oh of sks. convective regions in the tropics are underestimated. Kiehl attributes this superHuity to the model's "dryness." says Kiehl. and a lot of modelers will be using it to verify and improve their models. with the modelers tacitly assuming in many instances that such a relationship exists. "In the atmospheric sciences. This limit in resolution is determined by the speed of the supercomputers on which the models are run. it has such other parameters as vertical velocity (whether the air is rising or subsiding). they must account for the physics of individual clouds and their fundamental components. "I want to look at clouds in a statistical sense.sirs. Parameterization." Kiehl explained. marine stratus clouds are not represented. employs a relative-humidity index to predict the occurrence of clouds. which absorbs heat leaving the earth." its shortage of atmospheric water vapor. should include the use of time scales shorter than a month so that the cloudformation process can be examined in detail and so that different geographical regions can be probed for the distinctive cloud types that may exist there. Those comparisons. 3/8 . climate modeling is an ongoing process and different problems will most likely be identified in future comparisons with ERBE study's data. should the relative humidity drop below the threshold value later in the run. "as a population with a distribution of types. there are very few global observational data sets. a husband-and-wife team of atmospheric scientists particularly interested in the role clouds play in the climate system. Other defects in the model were discovered or confirmed by the likening: cirrus clouds are less efficient than they should be at emitting longwave radiation. This is accomplished through the use of equations that relate those processes to the large-scale processes that the models do resolve. the model finds the relative humidity at a given layer in the atmosphere to be above a certain threshold value. it would take an impractically long time to explicitly resolve finer detail. However. Kiehl says. and the six resulting values were then averaged. and the precipitation rate of cumulus clouds. With the present state of the art. now of the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign.

Slingo advocates both satellite and in situ observational programs. The ERBE series has also re~aled that for some reason the cooling effect is not uniform but is concentrated in the mid. optical depth Although it has been either totally neglected or inadequately accounted for in other general-circulation models. The global disparities in cloud radiative forcing suggest to Ramanathan several intriguing cloud-feedback mechanisms in a warmer climate. variations in cloud-optical depth are critical 'because they may change the effect of cloud feedback on a greenhouse warming. the observations were those made in 1986 and 1987 by FIRE. and cloud liquid water in a ~rtical column. Flux measurement sks. precipitation. the ERBE series is the most important satellite program now flying. "We can do quite a bit with the techniques used in models of particular elements of the climate system.7/24/12 sks. Four more months of data have since been probed.) Clouds thereby amplify the Equator-to-pole movement of heat that drives both atmospheric and oceanic circulation. it is much less successful at depicting cloudoptical depth. in the cirrus it would have a warming effect. until cloud optical depth is satisfactorily included in general circulation models and the models run in a doubled carbon dioxide mode. that conclusion must remain tentative. The now neutral clouds in the tropical Pacific. they can take detailed snapshots of the atmosphere in a gi~n place at a gi~n time." Slingo contends.. an increase of cloud optical depth would have a cooling effect on the planet. indicates that his parameterization successfully simulates cloud cover. The basic idea. driven by the Equator/pole temperature variance. According to Schlesinger. If the polar regions heat up more than the equatorial ones do--as some models predict--the temperature difference between the two would diminish. launched two months later. It consists of three satellites--the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite. In situ (literally.sirs. "in position") measurements are made by aircraft and balloons flown through clouds and by ground-based laser and radar-remote cloud sensors. Ramanathan. Ramanathan therefore suggests that both the tropical clouds and the temperate storm tracks be studied intensively." Real clouds To complement the development of models and provide the data against which they can be tested. perhaps the most critical parameter that he has incorporated is cloud-optical depth. However. 4/8 .sirs. (Over the rest of the planet.. longwa~ radiation at the top of the atmosphere. would probably become thicker. It remains to be seen whether this failure arises mainly from deficiencies in the model or mainly from the observations.and high-latitude oceans. Oregon State Uni~rsity is currently the most sophisticated available. The cooling clouds that form the storm tracks in the North Atlantic and Pacific oceans. a measure of how strongly the cloud interacts with both incoming and outgoing radiation. Just as Jeffrey Kiehl has done with the Community Climate Model. is that when the atmosphere warms. an acronym within an acronym.com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id=S1578505H-O-4693&type=ART&artno=0000003630&key=rainf . and cloud-ice content for the two basic types of clouds--cumuliform and stratiform. For studies of the greenhouse effect and human influences on the climate. and NOAA-10. The comparison. However. complementary to his wife's. because by then the ERBE scientific team had data from two satellites with which to compare. although unproved. In this case. launched in October 1984. can best be used to monitor changes in cloud radlatlve forcing and ascertain cloud feedback over time. launched in September 1986. and are invaluable for studies of fundamental physical processes. detailed models of cloud and storm systems. The global coverage provided by satellites. clouds have no net effect on climate. however. Anthony Slingo is interested in the radiative properties of clouds.. these traits are dealt with explicitly in a parameterization. according to Schlesinger. cloud-water content. the amount of liquid or ice water in clouds will increase along with cloud-optical depth. and the results confirm the large net cooling effect of clouds on the present climate. Some preliminary studies indicate that the net effect would be a cooling or negati~ feedback of considerable magnitude. the First ISCCP Regional Experiment (ISCCP. In all but the high cirrus clouds. on the other hand. Data from April 1985 were the first analyzed. "We've got to put better physical treatments of clouds in the general circulation models. Schlesinger has been comparing real experimental observations of the climate with the results obtained from a simulation of the present climate in a general-circulation model that incorporates his cloud parameterization. according to V..com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id=S1578505H-O-4693&type=ART&artno=0000003630&key=rainf . It includes fractional cloud cover. NOAA-9. which is its main purpose. Fractional covers. would move farther north and would cease to exert a cooling effect. and the cooling effects would again begin to dominate. stands for International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project). that he has been working on for the next ~rsion of the Community Climate Model.

Another is that absorption of solar radiation by the cloud stabilizes that stratum between the planet's surface and the free atmosphere. preventing the cloud from absorbing moisture from the ocean below. also of NOAA'S Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. Although all clouds concurrently heat and cool the earth/atmosphere system. scheduled for 1992. large volume of radiation. therefore. Consequently. to the Equator.000 meters above the oceans. and Madeira Islands. With those observations. sks. However.. of course. Feedback in a warming trend would be positive if the number of cirrus increased but the number of marine stratocumulus remained the same or decreased. The innovation in measurement for which ERBE has gained renown is the way in which its cloud-radiativeforcing value was derived: by subtracting the clear-sky flux from the total flux--the flux coming from both clear and cloudy regions. One is that the strong temperature inversion at the cloud top becomes unstable under certain circumstances. and congruity with adjacent regions.com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id=S1578505H-O-4693&type=ART&artno=0000003630&key=rainf . Low-lying water clouds. "It turns out the system is extraordinarily sensitive. and low clouds on the earth's present climate. off the southern coast of California near Los Angeles. Syukuro Manabe of NOAA'S Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory accurately described the effects of high. these thin decks of clouds-200 to 500 meters thick--with corrugated tops and bottoms probably have the greatest climatological influence of all low clouds because they cover such large areas and last so long before breaking up.com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id=S1578505H-O-4693&type=ART&artno=0000003630&key=rainf . To link the aircraft and satellite measurements. which are very high clouds composed of ice particles. and." Slingo reports. where they form. its main supply of moisture. The opposite is true of cirrus clouds. Manabe and Richard Wetherald." Whether marine stratocumulus will be so obliging as to grow that much is uncertain. Sitting only 500 to 1. marine stratocumulus are cooling clouds. one of the planes flown in the two intensive field observations conducted thus far carried the same kind of instruments as those aboard some of the satellites. They interfere with invading sunlight very little. middle. but capture much of the earth's longwave radiation.cloud water transfer.. the next FIRE stratocumulus experiment. (Middle altitude clouds block sunlight. in sum acting on the planet as if it were a greenhouse gas. That investigation will concentrate on the causes of the breakup of stratocumulus clouds as they travel from the subtropics. not all clouds heat and cool the atmosphere proportionately.) Recently. middle. according to Bruce Albrecht of Pennsylvania State University.. lead scientist of the stratocumulus scientific team. Anthony Slingo has conducted a series of studies. low Twenty-five years ago. separate studies were made of cirrus and marine stratocumulus clouds. will move to the northeast Atlantic region that encompasses the Azores. Because of their altitude. Using the Community Climate Model. Just increasing the amount of low cloud from the present 25 percent to about 29 to 30 percent can offset the carbon dioxide forcing.sirs..sirs.7/24/12 sks. The stratocumuli are especially persistent at that 3 time of the year in that region. ordinarily. 5/8 . Previous attempts to directly measure the flux coming from the clouds have failed because of the tremendous difficulty in\tOlvedin looking at individual cloud elements from space. "I tried to see by how much I had to change the low clouds in order to exactly match and compensate for the change in the earth's radiative heating. High. Canary Islands. all of which explore the sensitivity of the climate system to changes in low and high clouds when the amount of carbon dioxide is doubled. feedback would be negative if the change in those amounts were reversed. as do low clouds. a ten-year NASA-managed program begun in 1983 to combine satellite data from ten spacecraft with both in situ data from aircraft flying in the boundary layer and data from ground-based instruments. The islands west of Spain offer a choice of sites on which continuous measurements can be made of cloud dissolution over time. Help with this process comes from FIRE. Clear-sky regions are more easily identified by their darkness. Data collected during the first stratocumulus experiment are being studied in the light of three processes that have been proposed as mechanisms for this type of breakup. the marine stratocumulus are very effective at blocking solar radiation because of their percentage of liquid water. in some clouds the heating effect predominates and in others the cooling effect does. trap less longwave radiation than do high clouds. they have little effect on the emission of long wave radiation. The FIRE program ran its stratocumulus experiment in July 1987 from San Nicolas Island. but Slingo's studies underline their importance. the inversion prevents the warm air above the boundary layer from sinking through the cloud. concluded that the greatest uncertainty with respect to cloud feedback in climate modeling is caused by cirrus and marine stratocumulus clouds. Yet another is that the drizzle process has a similar decoupling effect on the ocean-to.

. Starr suspects. 6/8 . Starr suggests another possible explanation for the anomalous observations: Present cloud models do not correctly treat the radiative properties of ice crystals with complex structures. Streaks on the lidar imagery also indicate that ice particles rapidly precipitate out of the generating layer. they may be much more common than suspected. Another finding from the experiment with radiative implications is a discrepancy between the microphysical and radlatlve observations of the same clouds. Anything that affects the radiative properties of cirrus is particularly relevant because those properties determine their fundamental influence on the climate. Lidar. have properties so opposed to those of the stratocumulus that they might be considered anti clouds of the low. Starr interprets this finding as being the result of a series of discrete circulation pattems that begin and end quite abruptly. evaporating in the frequently drier air below. Most general-circulation models picture the atmosphere as a more homogeneous entity. expansive clouds. making cirrus both less dense and less efficient in their interactions with solar and longwa\e radiation than they otherwise would be. sks. One way to resobe the discrepancy. Observational programs like FIRE and ERBE. together with advances in modeling. is to actually count the number of small particles in a sample collected by a jet plane flying through real cirrus. "Because clouds in those latitudes recelve so much sunlight. gathered on a thin strip. Cirrus clouds. with properties that change gradually with height. the fi\e lidar systems used in the Wisconsin field experiment disclosed that cirrus are generated at a number of different heights rather than just one. Furthermore. they may begin to show this steplike behavior. because they are the most effectlve means of such entrapment. that are as small as 7 to 15 microns in size. of lengths from one meter to tens of meters long. lidar. Slides collected during the FIRE cirrus experiment demonstrate that the vast majority of cirrus crystals are not at all like the simply shaped pristine crystals created in the laboratory . can be seen. may well provide the keen-edged knife to cut this Gordian knot well before nature makes the truth obvious. In addition to re\ealing the existence of cirrus that cannot be seen with the naked eye. That. like ordinary radar. as well as the fact that cirrus alone can reverse the negati\e cloud feedback of liquid-water clouds. says Starr. a large amount of solar radiation is known to be reflected in those latitudes. makes in\estigating them especially critical. owing to their prodigious elevation and their wispy contours. The device will fly on the next FIRE cirrus experiment.sirs.7/24/12 sks. An instrument currently being developed by Andrew Heymsfield of NCAR will permit such a count to be made by getting a continuous videotape image of cirrus crystals. This rainfall removes water from the cloud. The way to resobe the issue. An instance of this kind of cancellation cited by NOAA'S Syukuro Manabe is ERBE's detection of clouds' neutral net radlatlve effect in the equatorial regions. was crucial to the study.. Clouds are considered the principal wild card in a changing climate because their posltlve and neqatlve feedbacks are intertwined with stupefying complexity.) Although this idea has gained a great deal of favor among atmospheric scientists. these delicate ice-crystal clouds are thought to be uncommon. The program's ground-based laser instruments have revealed the existence of subvisual cirrus. Lidars collect enormous amounts of data: Both horizontal and \ertical features...com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id=S1578505H-O-4693&type=ART&artno=0000003630&key=rainf . generating its stable fall cirrus regime. this site was chosen because preliminary studies he had done as a graduate student showed that Wisconsin's reasonably flat topography ruled out the possibility of mountains. according to Starr is to presume that the number of smaller ice crystals in the clouds is greater than was believed. According to lead scientist David Starr of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. That means an equally impressive amount of terrestrial radiation must be trapped by the clouds there. Manabe concludes that the Equator is capped by \ery thick cirrus clouds. or light radar. rather than storms and the general flow of the atmosphere. Using the luminous energy from a laser. The FIRE cirrus experiment took place in central Wisconsin in October 1986. the retum signal gi\es high-resolution pictures of such features as cloud structure. If models are run with increased vertlcal resolution. which is planned for southern Kansas in the late fall of 1991. (The effecti\e radius of the particle influences its interactions with radiation. sends out electromagnetic radiation that hits an object such as a cloud and is reflected back to a receiver.com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id=S1578505H-O-4693&type=ART&artno=0000003630&key=rainf . the Uni\ersity of Wisconsin offered excellent logistical support for such a field experiment. the other objects of lntensbe field observations by FIRE. In addition to carrying information about the distance of the cloud. including circulation pattems and streaks of precipitating crystals.sirs. Because cirrus clouds are difficult to detect from the ground. however.

Drizzle has several consequences. an additional complication. It removes condensation nuclei from the clouds--each droplet can carry away as many as 100 nuclei--so it helps to keep the condensation-nuclei population low. sks. the creator of the Gaia hypothesis. of the Uni'versity of Washington. wholly absent from current general circulation models. may manifest itself in the dusty form of aerosols released over the oceans. If the concentration of condensation nuclei in marine clouds is low. made of aerosols of one kind or another. Plankton excrete dimethylsulfide into the atmosphere. so an increase in the number of condensation nuclei in a cloud ultimately intensifies its reflectivity of solar radiation. MOSAIC's recent coveraqe of the issue of global change has included a special double issue on the subject. smaller droplets are more reflecti've of radiation than larger ones for a gi'ven mass of water.--ML. in Volume 20 Number 4.) The FIRE marine stratocumulus experiment detected evidence of the Twomey effect in the form of ship trails. where it is oxidized to form sulfate particles. upon which the water droplets that make up liquid-water clouds form: The fewer the number of nuclei. in particular of marine stratocumulus. Drizzle warms the top part of the boundary layer relatlve to the bottom part. Some time ago. The basic idea.7/24/12 sks. this discharge makes the clouds more vulnerable to breakup and reduces the potential reflectivity of low cloud cover. inhibiting the 'vertical mixing that supplies the cloud layer with water vapor from the ocean. such as those created by volcanlc eruptions.sirs. if the situation is reversed-that is. in their 1987 proposal that oceanic plankton might act as controls on a warming climate. The atmosphere over the remote oceans is notably lacking in cloud condensation nuclei. these droplets will fall through the clouds and produce drizzle. Droplets of different sizes fall at different 'velocities. so any increase in their number would dramatically enhance the albedo of oceanic clouds.. the liquid-water content of the clouds increases. Satellite observations of the same ship trail also picked up its higher reflectivity. the more numerous and smaller the droplets. Besides stabilizing the boundary layer. The Twomey effect was cited by Robert Charlson. aerosols just cool. is that the reflectivity of clouds depends on the number of condensation nuclei in them. creating water droplets of uniform size. Those events enhance the total amount of cloudiness. if the aerosol population is increased--the condensation nuclei tend to be small.. acting as a control to greenhouse warming. The work of Albrecht and Twomey makes the study of the indirect climatic effects of aerosols seem e'ven more vital. as well as a two-part special report. increasing the probability that they will collide and coalesce to form bigger droplets. (This part of their argument is considered the most questionable.. the main source of cloud condensation nuclei over the oceans. lines in the clouds caused by the aerosols ships emit as they plow through the water. 7/8 . "Detecting Climate Change. Drizzle also removes water from the clouds. The National Science Foundation contributes to the support of the research discussed in this article through the Meteorology and Climate Dynamics programs of its Division of Atmospheric Sciences.com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id=S1578505H-O-4693&type=ART&artno=0000003630&key=rainf . and James Lovelock. An aircraft passing through a ship trail measured a heightened amount of smaller water droplets relatlve to that found in the surrounding area. or albedo. If they get large enough..sirs. according to NCAR's Anthony Slingo. However. Charlson and Lovelock said such an increase might come about if the heightened temperatures of a greenhouse warming heated the oceans sufficiently to cause a population explosion among plankton. Pennsylvania State's Bruce Albrecht recently suggested another mechanism through which aerosols may regulate cloud albedo. Aerosols and cloud feedback If the effect of cloud feedback on a changing climate is not sufficiently recondite. the greater the number of nuclei. Twomey points out that according to radiative-transfer theory. Volume 19 Number 3/4. were considered most important for climate. Drizzle is then inhibited. the fewer and bigger the droplets." also by Mort La Brecque. the direct radlatlve effects of aerosols. These are the sites. causing the clouds to become more reflective and heightening the reflectivity caused by the Twomey effect.com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id=S1578505H-O-4693&type=ART&artno=0000003630&key=rainf . as does 'vertical mixing. there is a wide range in the size of water droplets that compose the clouds. Besides this article. put forward by Sean Twomey of the Uni'versity of Arizona in 1977. The only consolation atmospheric scientists have is that this effect is one-way: Whether natural or man-made. who believes that the cloud-physics component is reasonable.

com> Educators'Resources I RSS Feeds I Privacy I Accessibility I License I Contact Copyright © 2012 A"oQuest LLC. "Clouds and Climate: A Critical Unknown in the Global Equations. Summer 1990: 2-11.sirs. Citation: You can copy and paste this information into your own documents.7/24/12 sks.. SIRS Issues Researcher. 24 Ju12012. All rights reserved.. 8/8 . Mort La.uueeSr ---C-- sks.. lIe []I D iEll 2D~1 SIIA OODIEWINMER: SIRS® Issues Researcher Accessed on 07/24/2012 from SIRS Issues Researcher via SIRS Knowledge Source <http://www.. P'rOO.·· ·. Brecque.sirs.sirs. Web.com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id=S1578505H-0-4693&type=ART&artno=0000003630&key=rainf .com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id=S1578505H-0-4693&type=ART&artno=0000003630&key=rainf ." Mosaic.

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