Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NASA Scientist Predicts Less Climate Cooling From Clouds

Date:
October 4, 2000
Source:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Summary:
Don't count on clouds to come to the rescue if the Earth's current climate-warming trend continues. That's according to new NASA research published in the October 1st issue of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate.

Don't count on clouds to come to the rescue if the Earth's current climate-warming trend continues. That's according to new NASA research published in the October 1st issue of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate.

Related Articles


Heating and cooling of the Earth are influenced by cloud cover. Clouds can act as a natural sun shield by reflecting light back into space. But clouds can also coat the skies like a blanket, trapping warmth.

Precisely how these competing attributes will change in response to a warmer atmosphere is not well understood. Anthony Del Genio of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, analyzed three years of observations of low clouds over land, a type of cloud thought likely to contribute to future cooling. Some climate theories predict that a warmer atmosphere would evaporate more water, and this additional water vapor would form thicker clouds. However, Del Genio's research found that when air temperatures were higher, clouds were thinner and thus less capable of reflecting sunlight. These thinner clouds occurred regardless of weather conditions, season, or time of day.

"The bottoms of the clouds rise with warmer temperatures and the clouds become thinner," Del Genio explains. "When low clouds are present, warmer air flowing over land tends to be drier. As a parcel of dry air rises, it has to rise farther before it saturates with enough water to form the cloud base."

How much warmer will the climate become? Del Genio believes a theory that rising carbon dioxide levels would have only a slight impact on global temperatures is flawed because it doesn't take into account real-world cloud behavior.

"The minimum amount of warming predicted by scientists - 3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) - should be increased by at least 1 degree F as a result of the new findings," Del Genio asserts. The current range of 21st century warming, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is 3-8 degrees F (1.5-4.5 degrees C). The IPCC will be issuing its updated assessment early next year.

The finding is based on more than 3,000 individual cloud "snapshots" collected between 1994 and 1997 at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Southern Great Plains field station in Oklahoma. Using a unique suite of ground-based and satellite instruments, each snapshot records the air temperature, the height of the bottom and top of the cloud, and the amount of liquid water in the cloud. The more liquid water in a cloud and the thicker the cloud, the more opaque it is and the more sunlight it reflects.

"Use of these data from the Department of Energy by NASA researchers demonstrates the value of the United States Global Change Research Program for studies of our global environment," said Dr. Ghassem Asrar, Associate Administrator for NASA's Office of Earth Sciences, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC. "This program allows NASA to share in the wealth of data our sister agencies gather, complementing satellite, air and ground data for use by the whole Earth Sciences community. "

The relationship between cloud thinning and temperature was initially observed in 1992 over much of the world with long-term satellite observations. George Tselioudis, William Rossow and David Rind of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies published the observation using the NASA-funded International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) database, a global composite of cloud observations from international weather satellites.

"Our new research demonstrates that the global observations of cloud thinning with warming in the ISCCP data are valid in at least one location," says Del Genio. "And the satellite data suggest that this is not a phenomenon peculiar to the U.S. Great Plains, but one that occurs in many parts of the world." Support for the analysis of the research was provided by the Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program.

"For example, our plans for this decade includes a combination of three new satellites, in addition to those operation today. This will provide details on the three-dimensional structure of our atmosphere so as to better understand the role of clouds and aerosols on the Earth's energy balance and climate," Asrar said. Future observations from NASA's PICASSO-CENA spacecraft, scheduled for launch in 2003, will collect global measurements of cloud base heights and may shed light on whether clouds in other parts of the world also become physically thinner with warming.

This research is part of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise; a long-term research program designed to study the Earth's land, oceans, air, ice and life as a total system. Information and images are available at URLs:

http://ametsoc.org/AMS/

http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov

- end -


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "NASA Scientist Predicts Less Climate Cooling From Clouds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 October 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/10/001004072004.htm>.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2000, October 4). NASA Scientist Predicts Less Climate Cooling From Clouds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/10/001004072004.htm
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "NASA Scientist Predicts Less Climate Cooling From Clouds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/10/001004072004.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

Newsy (Oct. 30, 2014) A frog noticed by a conservationist on New York's Staten Island has been confirmed as a new species after extensive study and genetic testing. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Hawaii Lava Approaching Village Road

Raw: Hawaii Lava Approaching Village Road

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) The lava flow on the Big Island of Hawaii was 225 yards from Pahoa Village Road on Wednesday night. The lava is slowing down but still approaching the village. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Endangered Carpathian Ponies Are Making a Comeback in Poland

Endangered Carpathian Ponies Are Making a Comeback in Poland

AFP (Oct. 29, 2014) At the foot of the rugged Carpathian mountains near the Polish-Ukrainian border, ranchers and scientists are trying to protect the Carpathian pony, known as the Hucul in Polish. Duration: 02:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Deadly Mudslide in Sri Lanka Buries Houses

Deadly Mudslide in Sri Lanka Buries Houses

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) A mudslide triggered by monsoon rains buried scores of workers' houses at a tea plantation in central Sri Lanka on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people and leaving more than 250 missing, an official said. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins