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Indexed under : Earth Sciences

Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of Unknowns Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of the Unknown

Cloud forcing

Cloud Forcing (a.k.a. Cloud Radiative Forcing (CRF) or Cloud Radiative Effect (CRE)) refers to the complex effects which cloud cover has on the Earth's 'radiation budget' - in other words how much they affect warming by the Sun.

Clouds can reflect (heating) radiation from the Sun back into space, but can also increase atmospheric heating due to absorption of radiation coming from below, from the Earth's surface.

Current calculations and climate models tend to assume that, on average, clouds tend to cool the Earth's surface by about 13 W/m2.

But, because of the extreme complexity of climatic heating/cooling feedback loops, there is considerable disagreement amongst climatologists about their overall effects. This uncertainty has profound implications for creating accurate computer models of Climate Change.

Clouds remain one of the largest uncertainties in future projections of climate change by global climate models, owing to the physical complexity of cloud processes and the small scale of individual clouds relative to the size of the model computational grid.
Source : Wikipedia

Various Earth orbiting satellites (e.g. GERB - see link below) are part of current studies aimed at resolving the questions of clouds' effects on Climate Change.

However :

These effects collectively referred to as Cloud Forcing or Cloud Radiative Forcing (CRF) and Feedback are not yet understood to the level where it can be predicted with certainty whether their possible feedbacks will in total be positive and accelerate, or negative and slow down global warming.
Source : Wikipedia

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