Science

Rapidly Changing Climate Destroys Protective Shield of Cloud Over the Ocean

A rapid change in climate is affecting weather and ecosystem of Earth. Increasing greenhouse gas in the environment could soon remove low-level clouds from the skies. The move contributes to global warming and may result in worse conditions. A new study suggests that high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere result in the breakup of marine stratus clouds. The clouds would eventually fade away, which work as a protective cover for the surface. Without this protection, the harsh sunlight would increase global temperature. New simulations generated by high-tech computers indicate that cloud covering oceans may completely fade away once a particular level of CO2 is reached. The move would accelerate warming and result in a dangerous cycle.

Research published in Nature describes the new, more comprehensive simulation of cloud formation. The study explains the effects of solar radiation on the creation of clouds. The scientists from the California Institute of Technology said the previous simulation techniques were less convincing. That approach was not enough to know effects taking place in the unit of meters than that of kilometers. Thus it was necessary to get a more precise and specific simulation of clouds to reveal rising temperatures and impact of greenhouse gas.

The researchers used large—eddy simulation (LES) of clouds model to stimulate the situation. The development in high-performance computing enabled scientists to animate statistically stable states of stratocumulus-topped perimeter layers in particular regions. They simulated an area of around 5×5-km to obtain accurate results. Scientists state that the results indicate the dangerous climate transformation thresholds that were previously unknown. The study identifies that the cloud cover will not reform until CO2 levels decrease below 1,200 parts per million. Researchers say the clouds do not form so quickly; there is no telling how long it could take. Study’s leading author, Tapio Schneider, said the technological changes would slow carbon emissions. CO2 concentrations will not reach a greater extent. Schneider added this study points to a blind spot in climate modeling.

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