Global satellite data shows clouds will amplify global heating

Research paper

A new approach to analyse satellite measurements of Earth’s cloud cover reveals that clouds are very likely to enhance global heating.

The research, by scientists at Imperial College London and the University of East Anglia, is the strongest evidence yet that clouds will amplify global heating over the long term, further exacerbating climate change.

The results, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also suggest that at double atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations above pre-industrial levels, the climate is unlikely to warm below 2C, and is more likely on average to warm more than 3C.

Pre-industrial CO2 levels were around 280 ppm (parts per million), but current levels are approaching 420 ppm, and could approach double the pre-industrial amount by mid-century if significant emissions cuts are not made. The amount of climate warming predicted from a doubling of pre-industrial CO2 levels is known as the ‘climate sensitivity’ – a measure of how strongly our climate will react to such a change.

The largest uncertainty in climate sensitivity predictions is the influence of clouds, and how they may change in the future. This is because clouds, depending on properties such as their density and height in the atmosphere, can either enhance or dampen warming.

Co-author Dr Paulo Ceppi, from the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial, said: “The value of the climate sensitivity is highly uncertain, and this translates into uncertainty in future global warming projections and in the remaining ‘carbon budget’ – how much we can emit before we reach common targets of 1.5C or 2C of global warming.

“There is therefore a critical need to more accurately quantify how clouds will affect future global warming. Our results will mean we are more confident in climate projections and we can get a clearer picture of the severity of future climate change. This should help us know our limits – and take action to stay within them.”

Low clouds tend to have a cooling effect, as they block the sun from reaching the ground. High clouds, however, have a warming effect, as while they let solar energy reach the ground, the energy emitted back from the Earth is different. This energy can be trapped by the clouds, enhancing the greenhouse effect. Therefore, the type and amount of cloud a warming world will produce impacts further warming potential.

Inspired by ideas from the artificial intelligence community, the researchers developed a new method to quantify relationships between state-of-the-art global satellite observations of clouds, and the associated temperature, humidity and wind conditions. From these observed relationships, they were then able to better constrain how clouds will change as the Earth warms.

They found it was very likely (more than 97.5% probability) that clouds will amplify global heating, by both reflecting less solar radiation and enhancing the greenhouse effect. These results also suggest that a doubling of CO2 concentrations will lead to around 3.2C of warming. This is the highest confidence of any study so far, and is based on data from global observations, rather than local regions or specific cloud types.

Co-author Dr Peer Nowack, from the School of Environmental Sciences and Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and Imperial’s Grantham Institute and Data Science Institute, said: “Over the last few years, there’s been a growing amount of evidence that clouds probably have an amplifying effect on global warming. However, our new approach allowed us for the first time to derive a global value for this feedback effect using only the highest quality satellite data as our preferred line of evidence.

“Our paper makes a major step towards narrowing the most important uncertainty factor in climate sensitivity projections. As such, our work also highlights a new pathway in which machine learning methods can help us constrain the key remaining uncertainty factors in climate science.”

Research paper

News Related

OTHER NEWS

DLR agrees cooperation with Spanish start-up Pangea Aerospace

The German Federal Government is turning to efficient start-ups in its quest to ensure independent and competitive access to space for Europe. With their ideas and vision, they can accelerate ... Read more »

Winds delay South Australian launch attempt

UPDATE: Friday’s launch attempt was delayed due to strong upper winds. The Australian Government has given regulatory approval for a commercial rocket launch to take place from a newly licensed ... Read more »

SpaceX to raise bar for space tourism with Inspiration4 launch

SpaceX plans to reach new heights, literally, for space tourism Wednesday by launching the Inspiration4 mission from Florida — the first all-private spaceflight to orbit the Earth. Two men and ... Read more »

Next generation of Orion spacecraft in production for future Artemis missions

Over the next decade, NASA’s Orion spacecraft will carry astronauts during Artemis missions to the Moon to help prepare for human missions to Mars. Work on the spacecraft for Artemis ... Read more »

Orbit MPT30-Ku 12" Airborne SATCOM Terminal receives Intelsat FlexAir for government qualification

Orbit Communication Systems Ltd. reports that the Orbit MPT-30-Ku multi-purpose terminal (MPT) has received full qualification for use with the Intelsat FlexAir for Government service offering. FlexAir is a global ... Read more »

The beach is back: French Riviera marsh ditches seawalls for sand

To save one of the last wetlands on the French Riviera from rising sea levels, conservationists have taken the unusual step of removing its protective seawalls. Instead, they have let ... Read more »

Hughes and OneWeb announce agreements for low earth Orbit satellite service in US and India

Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES), an innovator in satellite and multi-transport technologies and networks for 50 years, and OneWeb, the low Earth orbit satellite communications company, has announced that they ... Read more »

How we proved a Rembrandt painting owned by the University of Pretoria was a fake

© Copyright (c) Daily Maverick , All Rights Reserved This story was first published in The Conversation. One – a small oil painting on a wood panel depicting the profile ... Read more »

Groundbreaking technique yields important new details on possible 'fifth force'

A group of researchers have used a groundbreaking new technique to reveal previously unrecognized properties of technologically crucial silicon crystals and uncovered new information about an important subatomic particle and ... Read more »

Dates set for Space Station change of command as Franco-German relations awarded Media prize

The dates have been set for ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet’s upcoming command of the International Space Station, as ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer prepares to join him on board. Thomas, who ... Read more »

Allen Coral Atlas completes map of the world's coral reefs using satellite imagery

The Allen Coral Atlas partners has announced that after three years, 450+ research teams and counting, and two million satellite images, the habitat mapping of the world’s shallow coral reefs ... Read more »

Some coral reefs are keeping pace with ocean warming

Some coral communities are becoming more heat tolerant as ocean temperatures rise, offering hope for corals in a changing climate. After a series of marine heatwaves hit the Phoenix Islands ... Read more »

Researchers reveal a novel metal where electrons flow with fluid-like dynamics

A team of researchers from Boston College has created a new metallic specimen where the motion of electrons flows in the same way water flows in a pipe – fundamentally ... Read more »

Space junk traffic dangers to be tackled by first-of-its-kind research centre in UK

New ways of tackling the threat that space junk in our skies poses are being explored by University of Warwick scientists, as they pioneer new research that could help the ... Read more »

Milky Way is not homogeneous

In order to better understand the history and evolution of the Milky Way, astronomers are studying the composition of the gases and metals that make up an important part of ... Read more »

Safeguarding clean water for spaceflight missions

By all appearances, the universe beyond Earth is a vast, lonely, and sterile space. Yet, wherever humans may travel, an abundance of microbial life will follow. In a first study ... Read more »

China develops sustainable development satellite

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has developed a satellite for pursuing sustainable development. The satellite, SDGSAT-1, has already passed the round-the-clock and multi-load coordinated observation. It is expected to ... Read more »

Space industry grapples with COVID-19-related oxygen fuel shortage

A pandemic-related shortage of a key rocket propellant, liquid oxygen, could force rocket launches to be postponed in coming months, possibly delaying important scientific and national defense missions, industry observers ... Read more »

Gaofen 5-02 satellite launched from Taiyuan

China launched the Gaofen 5-02 Earth-observation satellite on Tuesday morning at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi province, according to the China National Space Administration. The administration said the ... Read more »

Largest virtual universe free for anyone to explore

Forget about online games that promise you a “whole world” to explore. An international team of researchers has generated an entire virtual UNIVERSE, and made it freely available on the ... Read more »

Laser solid-phase synthesis of single atom catalysts

Laser fabrication of nanoparticles offers a powerful and flexible alternative to the purely chemical approaches. In recent years, laser synthesized precious metal nanoparticles are becoming increasingly important in catalysis due ... Read more »

Kleos secures A$12.6 million to grow constellation

Kleos Space S.A, a space-powered Radio Frequency Reconnaissance data-as-a- service (DaaS) company, has secured A$12.6 million (equivalent to 9.3 million USD) from new and existing institutional and sophisticated investors in ... Read more »

Eutelsat completes OneWeb equity investment

Eutelsat Communications confirms the closing of its $550m equity investment in OneWeb announced on April 27, 2021. Subject to completion of the subsequently announced investments in OneWeb by Bharti and ... Read more »

Global computing's carbon footprint is bigger than previously estimated

The world is more online than ever before, and as the digital economy continues to expand, so does the Internet’s carbon footprint. According to a new study, published Friday in ... Read more »

Smoke alarm, burning smell disrupt crew on International Space Station

Russian cosmonauts woke up to an emergency alarm Thursday in one of their service modules at the International Space Station. Audio from NASA’s television feed caught a French astronaut identifying ... Read more »

NASA works to give satellite swarms a hive mind

Swarms of small satellites could communicate amongst themselves to collect data on important weather patterns at different times of the day or year, and from multiple angles. Such swarms, using ... Read more »

New ALMA receivers achieve first light, set record for observational capabilities

new set of receivers installed on antennas at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have achieved first light. With it, they set a new record for the longest wavelengths visible ... Read more »

Crews at Russian Cosmodrome assemble spacecraft with VR Glasses

Virtual reality glasses are used by the military units of the Plesetsk cosmodrome in Russia to train to assemble space rockets, St. Petersburg-based Mozhaisky Military Space Academy told reporters on ... Read more »

Satellite in sun's backyard unravels the origins of interplanetary dust

What do shooting stars and astronaut safety have in common? Both stem from the sub-microscopic rock fragments found throughout the solar system, sometimes called interplanetary dust. When these particles collide ... Read more »

NASA awards launch services contract for GOES-U Mission

NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-U (GOES-U) mission. GOES-U will provide advanced imagery and atmospheric measurements ... Read more »

DARPA announces research teams to advance fundamental science of atomic vapors

DARPA has announced its selection of eight industry and university research teams to support the Science of Atomic Vapors for New Technologies (SAVaNT) program that kicked off this week. The ... Read more »

DLR Lampoldshausen prepares P5 test stand for the technologies of the future

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is preparing a central component of its extensive test infrastructure for the future by expanding the European Space Agency ... Read more »

Protective equipment against radiation to be tested on Nauka Module on ISS in 2023

New equipment that will help protect people from radiation during interplanetary flights will be tested on the Russian Nauka multipurpose laboratory module at the International Space Station, the head of ... Read more »

German ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer is ready for his first ISS mission - 'Cosmic Kiss'

At the end of October 2021, the German ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, together with the NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas H. Marshburn and Kayla Barron, are expected to launch to ... Read more »

Astronomers nail down the origins of rare loner dwarf galaxies

By definition, dwarf galaxies are small and dim, with just a fraction of the stars found in the Milky Way and other galaxies. There are, however, giants among the dwarfs: ... Read more »

Rocket flight to sharpen NASA's study of the Sun

It’s best not to look directly at the Sun, unless you’re one of NASA’s Sun-observing instruments. And even then, doing so will cause some damage. Exposure to the Sun degrades ... Read more »

Diamonds in the sky

Scientists from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) and Rutgers University have used simple concepts from granular physics to explain the curious diamond shapes of two ... Read more »

Planetary radar observes 1,000th near-earth asteroid since 1968

Seven days after this historic milestone, a massive antenna at NASA’s Deep Space Network Goldstone complex imaged another, far larger object. On Aug. 14, 2021, a small near-Earth asteroid (NEA) ... Read more »

Physicists discover black holes exert a pressure in serendipitous scientific first

Physicists at the University of Sussex have discovered that black holes exert a pressure on their environment, in a scientific first. In 1974 Stephen Hawking made the seminal discovery that ... Read more »

ESA Council agrees resolution on Ariane 6 and Vega-C exploitation and future space transportation

ESA Member States have agreed upon the boundary conditions for Europe’s upcoming exploitation of Ariane 6 and Vega-C and request ESA to propose a roadmap for new and innovative space ... Read more »