Nailing down climate uncertainty hints at greater future warming
More bad news about Climate change from John Timmer at Ars Technica! We better get our act together. We know of only one planet that we can survive on without space suits and its this one. Any planet like this one, with our technology would probably take our spaceships centuries to reach, at a minimum. Humanity better get its act together, and fight climate change, now!
Although the basic outlines of climate change are well understood—the first science on the greenhouse effect was done back in the 1800s—there are a number of details where our understanding remains incomplete. One of the big ones is the effect of clouds. Depending on their altitude, clouds can either reflect sunlight (cooling the planet) or act as an insulator, warming it. Figuring out the exact balance between these effects has been a challenge.
A new paper, released by Nature, attempts to look at the details of cloud formation and find a specific aspect that’s not well handled in climate models. That aspect alone accounts for roughly half the differences in their estimates of the climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide. Based on real-world data, the authors conclude that the models with higher climate sensitivities—meaning those that predict greater warming—are handling clouds better.