Developing and testing understanding of cloud fields and their interactions with the larger-scale environment has proven to be difficult. Many of the processes that control cloud feedbacks occur on scales smaller than those resolved by large-scale models in use today. These processes are thus parameterized, meaning that they are expressed in terms of large-scale quantities that are resolved by models. The influence of these large-scale properties on smaller-scale parameterized processes, and the subsequent feedback of the latter to the large scale, is referred to as the cloud parameterization problem. Three types of processes are critical: (1) cloud physical processes, including processes that govern the life-cycle of cloud-scale phenomena, (2) cloud radiative process, and (3) large-scale cloud thermodynamical processes that determine the heating in the climate systems and the associated atmospheric circulation.

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