February 28, 2007
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FROM VOLUME 8, NUMBER 4, APRIL 1995
OF GENERAL INTEREST: CLOUDS AND CLIMATE
related papers in Science, 267(5197), Jan. 27,
"Darker Clouds Promise Brighter Future for Climate
Models," R.A. Kerr, 454. Comments on the implications of the
next two papers in this issue, and the following one by Pilewskie
and Valero, all of which report measurements showing that clouds
absorb more solar radiation than is represented in global climate
"Absorption of Solar Radiation by Clouds: Observations
Versus Models," R.D. Cess (Marine Sci. Res. Ctr., State
Univ. N.Y., Stony Brook NY 11794), M.H. Zhang et al., 496-499.
Collocated satellite and surface measurements of solar radiation
at five geographically diverse locations show significantly more
solar absorption by clouds than predicted by theoretical models.
The effect is spatially uniform, suggesting that tropospheric
aerosols (pollutants) are not the cause. The physical cause
remains unknown, but the result substantially alters our
understanding of the atmosphere's energy budget.
"Warm Pool Heat Budget and Shortwave Cloud Forcing: A
Missing Physics?" V. Ramanathan (Ctr. Clouds, Chem. &
Clim., Scripps Inst. Oceanog., La Jolla CA 92093), B. Subasilar
et al., 499-503. Uses estimates of the heat export from the mixed
layer of the Pacific warm pool to determine the effect of clouds
on the net solar radiation at the sea surface. Clouds there seem
to trap a large amount of solar radiation in the cloudy
atmosphere, an inference at variance with most model results, and
one which has many climatic implications.
"Direct Observations of Excess Solar Absorption by
Clouds," P. Pilewskie (NASA-Ames, Moffett Field CA 94035),
F.P.J. Valero, Science, 267(5204), 1626-1629, Mar.
Aircraft measurements of solar flux in the cloudy tropical
atmosphere reveal that solar absorption by clouds is anomalously
large compared to theoretical estimates, implying that the
interaction between clouds and solar radiation is poorly
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