PerspectiveAtmospheric Science

Climate Effects of Aerosol-Cloud Interactions

Science  24 Jan 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6169, pp. 379-380
DOI: 10.1126/science.1247490

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Summary

Aerosols counteract part of the warming effects of greenhouse gases, mostly by increasing the amount of sunlight reflected back to space. However, the ways in which aerosols affect climate through their interaction with clouds are complex and incompletely captured by climate models. As a result, the radiative forcing (that is, the perturbation to Earth's energy budget) caused by human activities is highly uncertain, making it difficult to predict the extent of global warming (1, 2). Recent advances have led to a more detailed understanding of aerosol-cloud interactions and their effects on climate, but further progress is hampered by limited observational capabilities and coarse-resolution climate models.