Impacts of Tropical Clouds on Weather and Climate


Scientists in DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program used high-resolution radar data from two ARM sites in the tropical western Pacific and found that the daily and vertically averaged solar radiation absorption in the area between the Earth’s surface and the top of the atmosphere is same, whether tropical skies are cloudy or clear. They also found that the presence and vertical location of clouds greatly influence where the energy gets absorbed in the atmosphere even though clouds do not affect the average absorption. These findings are significant for climate change because the amount and location of solar absorption in the atmosphere drive air movement, which affects weather and climate.


McFarlane, S. A., J. H. Mather, T. P. Ackerman, and Z. Liu. 2008. Effect of clouds on the calculated vertical distribution of shortwave absorption in the tropics, J. Geophys. Res., 113, D18203, doi:10.1029/2008JD009791.