Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Picture of how our climate is affected by greenhouse gases is a 'cloudy' one

Date:
January 26, 2014
Source:
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Summary:
The warming effect of human-induced greenhouse gases is a given, but to what extent can we predict its future influence? That is an issue on which science is making progress, but the answers are still far from exact, say researchers.

Recent studies have revealed a highly complicated picture of aerosol-cloud interactions.
Credit: Maksim Shebeko / Fotolia

The warming effect of human-induced greenhouse gases is a given, but to what extent can we predict its future influence? That is an issue on which science is making progress, but the answers are still far from exact, say researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the US and Australia who have studied the issue and whose work which has just appeared in the journal Science.

Indeed, one could say that the picture is a "cloudy" one, since the determination of the greenhouse gas effect involves multifaceted interactions with cloud cover.

To some extent, aerosols -- particles that float in the air caused by dust or pollution, including greenhouse gases -- counteract part of the harming effects of climate warming by increasing the amount of sunlight reflected from clouds back into space. However, the ways in which these aerosols affect climate through their interaction with clouds are complex and incompletely captured by climate models, say the researchers. As a result, the radiative forcing (that is, the disturbance to Earth's "energy budget" from the sun) caused by human activities is highly uncertain, making it difficult to predict the extent of global warming.

And while advances have led to a more detailed understanding of aerosol-cloud interactions and their effects on climate, further progress is hampered by limited observational capabilities and coarse climate models, says Prof. Daniel Rosenfeld of the Fredy and Nadine Herrmann Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, author of the article in Science. Rosenfeld wrote this article in cooperation with Dr. Steven Sherwood of the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Dr. Robert Wood of the University of Washington, Seattle, and Dr. Leo Donner of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. .

Their recent studies have revealed a much more complicated picture of aerosol-cloud interactions than considered previously. Depending on the meteorological circumstances, aerosols can have dramatic effects of either increasing or decreasing the cloud sun-deflecting effect, the researchers say. Furthermore, little is known about the unperturbed aerosol level that existed in the preindustrial era. This reference level is very important for estimating the radiative forcing from aerosols.

Also needing further clarification is the response of the cloud cover and organization to the loss of water by rainfall. Understanding of the formation of ice and its interactions with liquid droplets is even more limited, mainly due to poor ability to measure the ice-nucleating activity of aerosols and the subsequent ice-forming processes in clouds.

Explicit computer simulations of these processes even at the scale of a whole cloud or multi-cloud system, let alone that of the planet, require hundreds of hours on the most powerful computers available. Therefore, a sufficiently accurate simulation of these processes at a global scale is still impractical.

Recently, however, researchers have been able to create groundbreaking simulations in which models were formulated presenting simplified schemes of cloud-aerosol interactions, This approach offers the potential for model runs that resolve clouds on a global scale for time scales up to several years, but climate simulations on a scale of a century are still not feasible. The model is also too coarse to resolve many of the fundamental aerosol-cloud processes at the scales on which they actually occur. Improved observational tests are essential for validating the results of simulations and ensuring that modeling developments are on the right track, say the researchers.

While it is unfortunate that further progress on understanding aerosol-cloud interactions and their effects on climate is limited by inadequate observational tools and models, achieving the required improvement in observations and simulations is within technological reach, the researchers emphasize, provided that the financial resources are invested. The level of effort, they say, should match the socioeconomic importance of what the results could provide: lower uncertainty in measuring human-made climate forcing and better understanding and predictions of future impacts of aerosols on our weather and climate.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. D. Rosenfeld, S. Sherwood, R. Wood, L. Donner. Climate Effects of Aerosol-Cloud Interactions. Science, 2014; 343 (6169): 379 DOI: 10.1126/science.1247490

Cite This Page:

Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "Picture of how our climate is affected by greenhouse gases is a 'cloudy' one." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140126134615.htm>.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (2014, January 26). Picture of how our climate is affected by greenhouse gases is a 'cloudy' one. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140126134615.htm
Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "Picture of how our climate is affected by greenhouse gases is a 'cloudy' one." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140126134615.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) A disease that has killed more than six million cave-dwelling bats in the United States is on the move and wildlife biologists are worried. White Nose Syndrome, discovered in New York in 2006, has now spread to 25 states. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Pictures of Ship That Sank in 1888

New Pictures of Ship That Sank in 1888

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) Federal researchers have released new images of the City of Chester, a steamship that sank in San Francisco Bay in 1888. Researchers recently found the shipwreck while mapping shipping routes. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Risk of Asteroid Hitting Earth Higher Than Thought, Study Shows

Risk of Asteroid Hitting Earth Higher Than Thought, Study Shows

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 23, 2014) A group of space explorers say the chance of a city-obliterating asteroid striking Earth is higher than scientists previously believed. Deborah Gembara reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

AFP (Apr. 23, 2014) The UN mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP) led a mine clearance demonstration on Wednesday in the UN-controlled buffer zone where demining operations are being conducted near the Cypriot village of Mammari. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
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:
from the past week

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