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The effect of clouds on the earth's solar and infrared radiation budgetsThe effect of global cloudiness on the solar and infrared components of the earth's radiation balance is studied in general circulation model experiments. A wintertime simulation is conducted in which the cloud radiative transfer calculations use realistic cloud optical properties and are fully interactive with model-generated cloudiness. This simulation is compared to others in which the clouds are alternatively non-interactive with respect to the solar or thermal radiation calculations. Other cloud processes (formation, latent heat release, precipitation, vertical mixing) were accurately simulated in these experiments. It is concluded that on a global basis clouds increase the global radiation balance by 40 W/sq m by absorbing longwave radiation, but decrease it by 56 W/sq m by reflecting solar radiation to space. The net cloud effect is therefore a reduction of the radiation balance by 16 W/sq m, and is dominated by the cloud albedo effect. Changes in cloud frequency and distribution and in atmospheric and land temperatures are also reported for the control and for the non-interactive simulations. In general, removal of the clouds' infrared absorption cools the atmosphere and causes additional cloudiness to occur, while removal of the clouds' solar radiative properties warms the atmosphere and causes fewer clouds to form. It is suggested that layered clouds and convective clouds over water enter the climate system as positive feedback components, while convective clouds over land enter as negative components.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Herman, G. F. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Laboratory for Atmospheric Sciences, Greenbelt, Md.; Wisconsin, University, Madison, Wis., United States)
Wu, M.-L. C. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Laboratory for Atmospheric Sciences, Greenbelt, Md., United States)
Johnson, W. T. (Sigma Data Services Corp. Greenbelt, Md., United States)
Date Acquired
August 10, 2013
Publication Date
June 1, 1980
Publication Information
Publication: Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Volume: 37
Subject Category
Funding Number(s)
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