Modeling — Airborne particles known as “aerosols” strongly impact the way clouds form and change, but accurately capturing this effect in computer climate models has proved to be notoriously difficult. A new study in the Proceedings on the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition online February 26, 2016, suggests why — either the models are failing to capture in sufficient detail the processes at work in clouds, or aerosols are now so pervasive in the atmosphere thanks to modern-day pollution that their specific effects on clouds are hard to pin down.A key problem is that we generally do not have data on clouds from the preindustrial era, before there was pollution, for comparison with the clouds of today. Because clouds are a key part of Earth’s climate system, working out how they behaved before the Industrial Age might ultimately help us better determine how much the world will eventually warm up.The study points to at least two ways to potentially improve how the clouds are simulated in climate models. One is to better differentiate cloud types in models to account for their variability. Another would be to study clouds that are not influenced by the pollution that humans have been… Read full this story
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