A new paper published in the Journal of Climate has shone the light on the inefficiency that currently exists in the modelling of clouds in climate models. The authors of the paper presented a new approach that will help in understanding the clouds role in and their response to global warming.
“All the global climate models we analyzed have serious deficiencies in simulating the properties of clouds in present-day climate,” noted lead author Axel Lauer at the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) at UHM. “It is unfortunate that the global models’ greatest weakness may be in the one aspect that is most critical for predicting the magnitude of global warming.”
Prior to the paper there had been several ineffective methods for modelling clouds, of which no two could agree on the same role and response.
The authors of the study created a model representing only a small portion of the atmosphere over the eastern Pacific Ocean and adjacent land areas in an attempt to successfully simulate the key features of the region’s present-day cloud fields, including its reaction to El Nino.
The successful simulation was then cast a hundred years into the future in an effort to guess at the clouds response to global warming. The end result was a tendency for clouds to thin and cloud cover to reduce, a result that was more pronounced than in any other previous model.
“If our model results prove to be representative of the real global climate,” co-author Kevin Hamilton concludes, “then climate is actually more sensitive to perturbations by greenhouse gases than current global models predict, and even the highest warming predictions would underestimate the real change we could see.”