Global warming may be far worse than thought, cloud analysis suggests

 Under a blanket of clouds, tourists watch a meltwater waterfall on an icecap. Photograph: Ralph Lee Hopkins/National Geographic Society/Corbis

Under a blanket of clouds, tourists watch a meltwater waterfall on an icecap. Photograph: Ralph Lee Hopkins/National Geographic Society/Corbis

Researchers said that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere compared with pre-industrial times could result in a global temperature increase of up to 5.3C – far warmer than the 4.6C older models predict.

The analysis of satellite data, led by Yale University, found that clouds have much more liquid in them, rather than ice, than has been assumed until now. Clouds with ice crystals reflect more solar light than those with liquid in them, stopping it reaching and heating the Earth’s surface.

Scientists have been trying to get to grips with the extent clouds and water vapor will influence the warming already under way. A paper published last year found that short-term fluctuations in clouds have large impacts on the net rate of heat gain by the Earth.

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper website here.

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