Study Finds That Climate Change Is Moving Clouds Towards the Poles and Pushing Them Higher

About 70 percent of Earth is covered by clouds at any given moment. Their interaction with climate isn't easy to study, scientists say; these shape-shifters move quickly.
About 70 percent of Earth is covered by clouds at any given moment. Their interaction with climate isn’t easy to study, scientists say; these shape-shifters move quickly.

The relationship between climate change and cloud cover has long been a hotly debated, and largely unresolved, topic of discussion among scientists. While clouds rich in ice crystals slow global warming by reflecting heat and radiation back into space, recent studies have shown that most climate models have overestimated the amount of ice in the clouds, suggesting they play a smaller role than previously believed in curbing the harmful effects of climate change.

Now, a new paper published in the journal Nature has further cleared the air surrounding the role of clouds in regulation Earth’s climate. The study shows that the inexorable rise in the planet’s temperature is leading to a change in the distribution of clouds all over the Earth.

“What this paper brings to the table is the first credible demonstration that the cloud changes we expect from climate models and theory are currently happening,” lead author Joel Norris, a climate researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said in a statement.

The study, which is based on data gathered by weather satellites between 1983 and 2009, found that not only are the mid-latitude storm tracks moving poleward, leaving the populated regions in subtropical latitudes — located between 23.5 and 40 degrees in both hemispheres — drier than they were before, the height of the highest cloud tops has also increased.

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SOURCE: International Business Times, Avaneesh Pandey