As greenhouse gases continue to be added to the atmosphere a big question for scientists is how will clouds alter Earth's global energy balance? Different types of clouds have different effects on this energy balance with high cirrus clouds trapping rising heat and low lying clouds reflecting sunlight and creating a cooling effect, thus complicating researchers' ability to predict how clouds will impact future climate.
A recent New York Times article featured an animated map from NASA showing a year of cloud cover from April 2011-April 2012, illustrating that land and ocean features influence cloud patterns. The article also features an informative graphic depicting the different properties of high cirrus clouds and low lying clouds when it comes to reflecting sunlight and trapping heat. Global maps of NASA satellite data from March 2012 provide information about cirrus cloud cover, incoming solar radiation, reflected sunlight and radiated heat.
A slide presentation titled Understanding the Atmosphere is also available and depicts some of the tools scientists are using to study clouds and the atmosphere.
Alignment to NC Essential Standards (grades 9-12)