Two Key Questions How Are Clouds Responding to Global Warming

One long-standing and critical issue for our understanding of climate change is to determine how clouds have changed in response to global warming and how they will change in the future, and whether the cloud radiative response will exacerbate, mitigate, or have little effect on the increase in Earth's temperature caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases (Randall et al. 2007). The enduring problems with GCMs motivate an investigation of the observational record made over the past several decades. Despite the presence of natural variability in the historical cloud and ERB time series, a climate change signal may be apparent, especially when we consider that the last forty years have been a time period of substantially increasing anthropogenic radiative forcing and global temperature. Relating multidecadal changes in cloud properties and ERB to changes in temperature and atmospheric circulation will provide insight into cloud feedbacks on the climate system and a useful constraint on GCM climate simulations. Our ability to document and interpret the observational record is unfortunately hampered by limitations and weaknesses in the global observational system, which was developed to monitor weather rather than climate.

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