File:Global Surface Map with Clouds.jpg

From Global Warming Art


Comparison image with clouds and sea ice removed.

This is a true color image of the Earth surface plus cloud cover as recorded by NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), taken from the The Blue Marble 2002 Project.

As evidenced from this image, clouds are a very significant part of the Earth's appearance from space and contribute to its albedo, a measure of what fraction of the sun's radiation is absorbed by the Earth surface. Averaged over the whole Earth and whole year, cloud cover is believed to reduce the radiation received at the Earth's surface by 27.6 W/m2.[1] For comparison, the forcing associated with climate change between 1750 and 2000 is about 1.2 W/m2 [1]; hence, small variations in cloud cover are considered to be potentially significant source of climate variability. Unfortunately, clouds are considered to be one of the primary sources of uncertainty in current climate models, largely because the evolution of cloud cover depends on small scale processes and trace gases that are not easily modelled with existing computational techniques [2].

Some researchers have suggested that cloud cover is modulated by changes in cosmic rays reaching the Earth, which is in turn affected by solar variability.[2][3] If true, it would mean the effects of solar variability on Earth's climate have been underestimated. However, the lack of any trend in solar activity during the last 50 years is generally taken as convincing evidence that solar variation, with or without a cloud feedback, has not contributed substantially to recent global warming.[4]


This file is in the public domain because it was created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that "NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted". (NASA copyright policy page).


  1. ^ Hartmann DL (1993). "Radiative effects of clouds on earth's climate" inHobbs PV: Aerosol-Cloud-Climate Interactions. London: Academic Press, 151-173. 
  2. ^ Henrik Svensmark (1998). "Influence of Cosmic Rays on Earth's Climate". Physical Review Letters 81 (22): 5027-5030. 
  3. ^ E. Pallé, C.J. Butler, K. O'Brien (2004). "The possible connection between ionization in the atmosphere by cosmic rays and low level clouds". Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 66 (18): 1779-1720. DOI:10.1016/j.jastp.2004.07.041. 
  4. ^ Benestad, R.E. (2002). Solar Activity and Earth's Climate. Berlin and Heidelberg: Praxis-Springer. 

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