How Clouds Work: The Most Complicated Problem in Climate Change

Illustration for article titled How Clouds Work: The Most Complicated Problem in Climate Change

Predicting how Earth's climate will change in the coming years is a deeply important task for science. It also seems fairly fundamental—they're just clouds! Thing is, cloud dynamics are incredibly problematic, to the point of being unknowable in some instances.

Advertisement

The Verge has a very cool feature today about the problem. Essentially, it's impossible to predict future climate changes without knowing how cloud behavior will change. And that's especially important in places like the tropics, where a change in rainfall patterns could prove disastrous.

The trouble with making those predictions basically breaks down to an issue of scale. The models used by the general circulation model used by the UN is far too vast to be used for basic cloud dynamics. Those only simulate atmospheric phenomena larger than 100 kilometers, while most clouds are no bigger than 1 kilometer. Problem!

Advertisement

The solution is smaller models (obviously). Some track various types of clouds' movement from satellites, while others use supercomputers to crunch numbers on various, hellish conditions input by the scientists. It's all pretty complicated. Check out the rest of the details over at the Verge. [Verge]

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

I have to say that judging from the comments so far, I have much more faith in humanity than I used to. Less falling for propaganda, more critical thinking.

The complexity of the climate of a planet has so many variables. Many of them that are impossible to quantify. The idea that we can predict what is going to happen, let alone what the causes are is pure arrogance.

It is like people that say $1 Trillion dollars is no big deal. Or that the bottled water facilities around the Great Lakes are draining the lakes. They truly have no concept of the scale of things.