How Clouds Affect the Climate - Seeker
An easy way to remember the difference is that climate is what you expect, Weather includes sunshine, rain, cloud cover, winds, hail, snow. What is the relationship between the Earth's atmosphere and its weather and in the form of clouds) that exists for several miles above the surface of the planet. This relationship creates a complicated system of climate feedbacks, What is important is the sum of all these separate effects, the net radiative cooling or.
And these greenhouse gases perturb the radiation balance of climate. And what they do is move the climate system to a warmer state. And it does that because of the way that gases reduce the emissions of infrared radiation to space by the Earth and its atmosphere. And this so-called greenhouse gas forcing on the climate system is well-understood.
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He said that what's less well-understood is how the climate responds to this forcing. And that is the focus of much climate modeling research today.
It's certainly the motivation behind many of NASA's satellite observations and the modeling studies that we do, and that's in fact what a large part of my own work involves.
Platnick told EarthSky what he thought was the most important thing people should know about Earth's clouds and climate. Earth is a dynamic system of components. On the largest scales you have the atmosphere, the land, the ocean, snow and ice on the ground. And these systems connect with each other in different ways, through the exchange of water, and energy, and chemistry, such as the exchange of carbon.
We need to be able to better understand the consequences of these connections.
Clouds are the prime example of this interconnection, because they play a key role in these systems, especially in the water and energy connections. The fourth root of 0. Thus an error of only about 10 percent in temperature corresponds to an error of There is vastly more of the Sun's radiation reflected from clouds than from the polar ice caps.
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This is because there is vastly more area covered by clouds outside of the polar regions than the ice caps. It is also because angle of incidence in the polar regions is so low compared with the other regions of the world.
The area of the Earth's total surface is about million square kilometers. The area covered by clouds during December, January and February is million square kilometer. The total amount of sea ice in the polar regions during that time of the year is about 17 million square kilometers. However much of this sea ice is redundant as far reflectance of the Sun's radiation is concerned because there are clouds above it.
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The cloud coverage in the Arctic is about 60 percent in the winter so only 40 percent of the 15 million square kilometers of sea ice is reflecting the Sun's radiation.
The cloud coverage in the Antarctic in December, January and February is about 10 percent so 1. Thus the sea ice area that is effective in reflecting the Sun's radiation is 7.
It would take only 0. Actually the polar sea ice is even less important to Earth's energy budget than the above computation indicate. The amount of energy reflected in the polar regions is much less because the angle of the Sun. The figure below illustrates this point. This graph uses some rough approximations to obtain an order of magnitude figure for the importance of the polar ice and snow field to Earth's energy budget.
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For this graph the albedo of clouds is taken to be 0. This same value is used for ice and snow fields. The ice and snow fields are presumed to cover the Earth from The albedo of rest of the Earth is taken to be 0.
In the graph the reflectance is shown in arbitrary units. Using the above stated values for the albedos and snow and ice coverage, total disappearance of the snow and ice fields would reduce the Earth's reflectance by only 5 percent. This is without any change in clouds. Definition[ edit ] Climate from Ancient Greek klima, meaning inclination is commonly defined as the weather averaged over a long period.
Climate also includes statistics other than the average, such as the magnitudes of day-to-day or year-to-year variations. Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined as the "average weather," or more rigorously, as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period ranging from months to thousands or millions of years.
These quantities are most often surface variables such as temperature, precipitation, and wind. Climate in a wider sense is the state, including a statistical description, of the climate system.
A Normal is defined as the arithmetic average of a climate element e. A 30 year period is used, as it is long enough to filter out any interannual variation or anomalies, but also short enough to be able to show longer climatic trends. At its Wiesbaden meeting the technical commission designated the thirty-year period from to as the reference time frame for climatological standard normals.
In the WMO agreed to update climate normals, and these were subsequently completed on the basis of climate data from 1 January to 31 December These change only over periods of millions of years due to processes such as plate tectonics. Other climate determinants are more dynamic: The density and type of vegetation coverage affects solar heat absorption,  water retention, and rainfall on a regional level.