Decreasing Cloud Cover Could Mean Higher Global Temperatures

[ Watch the Video: Fewer Clouds Could Mean Hotter Temperatures ]

Gerard LeBlond for – Your Universe Online

A study by the University of NSW (UNSW) claims that the Earth’s temperatures will rise 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. Earlier predictions that were based on cloud cover forecast a smaller increase and were most likely wrong, according to the study, to be published January 1, 2014 in the journal Nature. This could mean catastrophic results for agriculture, especially for the warmer climates.

The team of researchers claim they have discovered the key to predicting cloud behavior and it will not be as helpful as first predicted. The prediction is for carbon dioxide levels to double, resulting in a 2.7-9F jump in the Earth’s temperature.

Maurice Newman, a top business advisor to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, has produced some controversy, saying that global warming is a “delusion” and climate change policies are destroying Australia’s manufacturing industry.

According to the The Australian newspaper,  Mr. Newman said it was “climate change madness,” as cited by The Sydney Morning Herald.

Australia ended the 2013 year as the hottest year in more than a century topping the record high temperatures of 2005.

In the report, lead author Steven Sherwood, professor at UNSW’s climate change research center, stated the biggest uncertainty for climate change modeling for the past 25 years is the changes in clouds. He said it “cracks open one of the biggest problems in climate science.”

CO2 levels have risen by 41 percent since pre-industrial times and temperatures rose by 0.8C since around 1880. “This degree of warming would make large swaths of the tropics uninhabitable by humans and cause most forests at low and middle latitudes to change to something else,” Sherwood said. It would also take Earth “back to the climate of the dinosaurs or worse, and in a geologically minuscule period of time—less than the lifetime of a single tree.”

Ocean clouds were examined in the study; researchers found that at low altitudes they reflect sunlight resulting in lower temperatures. The mix of higher, drier air will cause thinning of the ocean clouds and thus reduce their cooling effect.

Climate scientists from Japan’s National institute for Environmental Studies stated, “So can we declare the long-running debate about climate sensitivity to be over? Unfortunately, ‘Sherwood and colleagues’ study represents a big advance, but questions persist.”

Sherwood added, “We’ve been hoping for the best and not planning for the worst.”

According to, observations show that water vapor is drawn up into the atmosphere by evaporation. This process creates heavy rain clouds if it rises to 9 miles; if it rises only a few miles it will return to earth without forming rain clouds.

When water vapor only rises a few miles, the cloud cover is reduced because the vapor is pulled away from the high clouds. When the process of climate models match the real world observations, water vapor is taken to a broader range of heights, causing fewer clouds as the climate warms.

This will increase heat entering the atmosphere thus increasing the risk of carbon dioxide into our climate. Models show within 50 years the carbon dioxide levels doubling and raising Earth’s temperatures.

“Climate sceptics [sic] like to criticize climate models for getting things wrong, and we are the first to admit they are not perfect, but what we are finding is that the mistakes are being made by those models which predict less warming, not those that predict more,” said Prof. Sherwood.

“Rises in global average temperatures of this magnitude will have profound impacts on the world and the economies of many countries if we don’t urgently start to curb our emissions.”