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Consequences of Global Warming: Satellite Analysis Shows Clouds Rising to the Poles, Subtropical Dry Zones Expanding

Jul 13, 2016 03:37 AM EDT
Satellite analysis of storm tracks has revealed that since the 1980s, clouds are moving higher and subtropical zones are expanding due to continuous global warming.
(Photo : azalee36/Pixabay)

A team of researchers has revealed yet another shocking consequence of global warming: Clouds are rising and subtropical zones are expanding while the planet continually warms.

According to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California-San Diego, the team came up with the findings by analyzing storm track cloud records since the 1980s. The climate models showed that cloud movement and subtropical zone expansion are results of greenhouse gases that accumulated due to human activity through time. 

The study published in the journal Nature revealed that as temperature rises, clouds move away from the equator.

The researchers noted that the large-scale cloud changes between the 1980s and 2000s coincide with predictions of climate models, which include poleward retreat of storm tracks, increasing cloud altitudes and subtropical dry zone expansion.

"As cloud top grows higher, the 'cloud blanket' grows thicker, and becomes more effective at keeping the Earth warm," Professor Joel Norris, a researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told Fairfox Media.

But why is this alarming? The impact of clouds on the Earth's climate is like a double-edged sword. While they can cool the planet by reflecting radiation back to space, they can also trap heat and prevent radiation from getting out of Earth's atmosphere.

These cloud changes could increase the planet's ability to absorb heat while decreasing emission.

“What this paper brings to the table is the first credible demonstration that the cloud changes we expect from climate models and theory are currently happening," said Norris via The Independent.

The team expects that as long as the concentration of greenhouses gases increases, the clouds will continue to rise unless an unpredictable event such as a volcanic eruption offsets it.

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