Global warming to turn clouds into heat traps

December 12th, 2010 - 6:04 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 12 (IANS) Global warming will turn clouds into heat traps, worsening the greenhouse gas effects, and chances that clouds will save us from climate change are low, an expert says.

Andrew Dessler, professor of atmospheric sciences at the Texas A&M University, said that this process was known as the “cloud feedback”, which was likely to account for a significant portion of the warming over the next century.

Dessler used measurements from the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System instrument onboard NASA’s Terra satellite to calculate the amount of energy trapped by clouds as the climate varied over the last decade, Science journal reported.

He also used meteorological analyses provided by NASA’s Modern Era Retrospective-Analysis for Research and Applications and by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

“It’s a vicious cycle — warmer temperatures mean clouds trap more heat, which in turn leads to even more warming,” Dessler explained, according to a Texas statement.

While climate models had long predicted that the cloud feedback would amplify warming from human activities, until recently it was impossible to test the models using observations.

“This work suggests that climate models are doing a pretty decent job simulating how clouds respond to changing climates,” Dessler said.

Some prominent climate skeptics have recently been arguing that clouds would act to stabilize the climate, thereby preventing greenhouse gases from causing significant warming.

“Based on my results, I think the chances that clouds will save us from dramatic climate change are pretty low,” he explained.

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