skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Evidence for climate change in the satellite cloud record

Abstract

Clouds substantially affect Earth’s energy budget by reflecting solar radiation back to space and by restricting emission of thermal radiation to space 1. They are perhaps the largest uncertainty in our understanding of climate change, owing to disagreement among climate models and observational datasets over what cloud changes have occurred during recent decades and will occur in response to global warming 2, 3. This is because observational systems originally designed for monitoring weather have lacked sufficient stability to detect cloud changes reliably over decades unless they have been corrected to remove artefacts 4, 5. Here we show that several independent, empirically corrected satellite records exhibit large-scale patterns of cloud change between the 1980s and the 2000s that are similar to those produced by model simulations of climate with recent historical external radiative forcing. Observed and simulated cloud change patterns are consistent with poleward retreat of mid-latitude storm tracks, expansion of subtropical dry zones, and increasing height of the highest cloud tops at all latitudes. The primary drivers of these cloud changes appear to be increasing greenhouse gas concentrations and a recovery from volcanic radiative cooling. Here, these results indicate that the cloud changes most consistently predicted by global climate modelsmore » are currently occurring in nature.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [1];  [3];  [4];  [3]
  1. Univ. of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA (United States)
  2. Univ. of California, Riverside, CA (United States)
  3. Lawrence Livermore National Lab. (LLNL), Livermore, CA (United States)
  4. Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Lawrence Livermore National Lab. (LLNL), Livermore, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1289364
Report Number(s):
LLNL-JRNL-688338
Journal ID: ISSN 0028-0836
Grant/Contract Number:  
AC52-07NA27344
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Nature (London)
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Name: Nature (London); Journal Volume: 536; Journal Issue: 7614; Journal ID: ISSN 0028-0836
Publisher:
Nature Publishing Group
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
58 GEOSCIENCES

Citation Formats

Norris, Joel R., Allen, Robert J., Evan, Amato T., Zelinka, Mark D., O'Dell, Christopher W., and Klein, Stephen A. Evidence for climate change in the satellite cloud record. United States: N. p., 2016. Web. doi:10.1038/nature18273.
Norris, Joel R., Allen, Robert J., Evan, Amato T., Zelinka, Mark D., O'Dell, Christopher W., & Klein, Stephen A. Evidence for climate change in the satellite cloud record. United States. doi:10.1038/nature18273.
Norris, Joel R., Allen, Robert J., Evan, Amato T., Zelinka, Mark D., O'Dell, Christopher W., and Klein, Stephen A. Mon . "Evidence for climate change in the satellite cloud record". United States. doi:10.1038/nature18273. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1289364.
@article{osti_1289364,
title = {Evidence for climate change in the satellite cloud record},
author = {Norris, Joel R. and Allen, Robert J. and Evan, Amato T. and Zelinka, Mark D. and O'Dell, Christopher W. and Klein, Stephen A.},
abstractNote = {Clouds substantially affect Earth’s energy budget by reflecting solar radiation back to space and by restricting emission of thermal radiation to space1. They are perhaps the largest uncertainty in our understanding of climate change, owing to disagreement among climate models and observational datasets over what cloud changes have occurred during recent decades and will occur in response to global warming2, 3. This is because observational systems originally designed for monitoring weather have lacked sufficient stability to detect cloud changes reliably over decades unless they have been corrected to remove artefacts4, 5. Here we show that several independent, empirically corrected satellite records exhibit large-scale patterns of cloud change between the 1980s and the 2000s that are similar to those produced by model simulations of climate with recent historical external radiative forcing. Observed and simulated cloud change patterns are consistent with poleward retreat of mid-latitude storm tracks, expansion of subtropical dry zones, and increasing height of the highest cloud tops at all latitudes. The primary drivers of these cloud changes appear to be increasing greenhouse gas concentrations and a recovery from volcanic radiative cooling. Here, these results indicate that the cloud changes most consistently predicted by global climate models are currently occurring in nature.},
doi = {10.1038/nature18273},
journal = {Nature (London)},
number = 7614,
volume = 536,
place = {United States},
year = {Mon Jul 11 00:00:00 EDT 2016},
month = {Mon Jul 11 00:00:00 EDT 2016}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record

Citation Metrics:
Cited by: 40 works
Citation information provided by
Web of Science

Save / Share: