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Better estimates of clouds’ climate effects are on the horizon

14 April 2017

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The water that makes up a cloud can exist as liquid droplets, ice crystals, or a mixture of both phases. Cloud phase affects how much radiation from the Sun reaches the ground, stays in the atmosphere, or makes its way back into space; all three influence Earth's temperature. However, inadequate tools and data have made it challenging for scientists to accurately incorporate cloud phase into predictions of future climate.

In a new study, Matus and L'Ecuyer present a recent update to an algorithm for processing satellite data that could make such predictions more accurate. They used the algorithm to determine the influence of different cloud phases on solar radiation. The results confirm that the mixture of liquid and ice in a cloud can significantly influence how the cloud affects its environment.

Source: EOS Earth & Space Science News

Image credit: YavorKalev - High-altitude clouds containing ice crystals.

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