Cirrus cloud disappearance may dampen global warming

Cirrus clouds high in the atmosphere lock heat into the EarthThe self-adjustment of the science consensus tends to make it reliable – credible research is promoted and those not backed out by evidence fall. So if the scientific consensus thinks global warming is a problem, I’m inclined to believe them. However, sometimes real science offers some positives, like today. Researchers at UAHuntsville’s Earth System Science Center found that the amount of heat-trapping Cirrus clouds in the atmosphere decreases rather than increases as global temperatures go up. High altitude clouds like Cirrus ones tend to trap heating escaping from the atmosphere, amplifying any existing warming (low altitude clouds tend to have the opposite effect by reflecting sunlight back into space).

It was expected that as temperatures rose, more evaporation would lead to more clouds. Studies of smaller warming and cooling cycles in the tropics showed that actually higher temperatures created less Cirrus clouds, encouraging a cooling period in reaction to the added heat. This negative feedback system is an exciting discovery and could cut the amount of temperature rises in global warming models by as much as 75%. It’s not a get out of jail card and it would still be prudent to work on a worst-case scenario basis but this kind of mechanism could give us the time needed to adapt to a lower carbon economy.

[via ScienceDaily, image by acewill]