Direct Observations of Excess Solar Absorption by Clouds

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Science  17 Mar 1995:
Vol. 267, Issue 5204, pp. 1626-1629
DOI: 10.1126/science.267.5204.1626


Aircraft measurements of solar flux in the cloudy tropical atmosphere reveal that solar absorption by clouds is anomalously large when compared to theoretical estimates. The ratio of cloud forcing at an altitude of 20 kilometers to that at the surface is 1.58 rather than 1.0, as predicted by models. These results were derived from a cloud radiation experiment in which identical instrumentation was deployed on coordinated stacked aircraft. These findings indicate a significant difference between measurements and theory and imply that the interaction between clouds and solar radiation is poorly understood.