Cloud Feedback: A Stabilizing Effect for the Early Earth?

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Science  24 Sep 1982:
Vol. 217, Issue 4566, pp. 1245-1247
DOI: 10.1126/science.217.4566.1245


The effect of variations in cloud cover, optical properties, and fractional distribution with altitude on the mean surface temperature of a model of the early earth has been investigated. In all cases examined, cloud-climate feedbacks result in temperatures greater than those in models with no cloud feedbacks. If the model of hydrospheric feedback effects is correct, then cloud feedbacks are as important to the climate as changes in solar luminosity and atmospheric composition during the earth's atmospheric evolution. In particular, the early earth need not become completely ice-covered if strong negative cloud feedbacks occur. However, until a proper understanding of cloud feedbacks is available, conclusions regarding conditions in the early atmosphere must remain in doubt.