Scientists have found that changes in cloud patterns during the last three decades match those predicted by climate model simulations. These cloud changes are likely to have had a warming effect on the planet.
Records of cloudiness from satellites originally designed to monitor weather are plagued by erroneous variability related to changes in satellite orbit, instrument calibration and other factors, so the team used a new technique to remove the variability from the records. The corrected satellite records exhibited large-scale patterns of cloud change between the 1980s and 2000s that are consistent with climate model predictions, including poleward retreat of mid-latitude storm tracks, expansion of subtropical dry zones and increasing height of the highest cloud tops.
The research from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, Riverside and Colorado State University appears in the July 11 edition of the journal, Nature.
“What this paper brings to the table is the first credible demonstration that the cloud changes we expect from climate models and theory are currently happening,” said study lead author Joel Norris, a climate researcher at Scripps.