Smoke Invigoration Versus Inhibition of Clouds over the Amazon

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Science  15 Aug 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5891, pp. 946-949
DOI: 10.1126/science.1159185

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The effect of anthropogenic aerosols on clouds is one of the most important and least understood aspects of human-induced climate change. Small changes in the amount of cloud coverage can produce a climate forcing equivalent in magnitude and opposite in sign to that caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases, and changes in cloud height can shift the effect of clouds from cooling to warming. Focusing on the Amazon, we show a smooth transition between two opposing effects of aerosols on clouds: the microphysical and the radiative. We show how a feedback between the optical properties of aerosols and the cloud fraction can modify the aerosol forcing, changing the total radiative energy and redistributing it over the atmospheric column.

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