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Clouds’ Cooling Power Not Enough to Protect Us from Global Warming

Apr 11, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

Researchers thought that the ability of clouds to reflect sunlight is going to be an effective preventive countermeasure against global warming, but a new study suggests that it might not be the case anymore.

The basic idea behind clouds acting as a reflective barrier of light is quite simple.

According to most climate change models that analyze mixed-phase clouds--those that contain cool liquid and ice water--is that as the global temperature rises, the ice water in the clouds produces more cool liquid.

The more liquid and less ice clouds, according to the researchers, are better at reflecting light back into space compared to the more ice ad less liquid ones because the liquid reflects more light than ice.

But a new study, published in the journal Science, suggests that most climate change models have overestimated the amount of ice that currently exists in the mixed-phase clouds.

According to a report from New York Times, the researchers discovered that the current mixed-phase clouds contain more water and less ice than expected. This means that there would be lesser ice to be converted into liquid, thus, speeding up global warming.

The prevalence of liquid in the clouds can be attributed to the lack of particles that helps turn the liquid into ice water, Maine News Online reported.

With this new finding, a Times report suggested that the goal of the world leaders to prevent the temperature from rising less than 2°C (35 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial period by 2100 is much more difficult to achieve.

"Clouds do not seem to want to do us any favors when it comes to limiting global warming," said co-author Mark Zelinka of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Washington Post described the recent study as "well-reasoned" and "sobering."

But this doesn't mean that the study will be accepted open-heartedly by other experts.

Chris Bretherton of the University of Washington said that if the study is correct, the global warming should have been even higher.

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