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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Oh, The Land Of An Unclouded Sky

Oh, The Land Of An Unclouded Sky

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, July 11, 2016/Categories: natural history, sustainability, environment, climate change

                               Global Cloud Patterns (credit: Goddard Space Flight Center, Scripts)

The hymn, Oh Uncloudy Day was written in 1885 by an Ohio preacher and is often performed by powerful African American choirs and is also a standard of country singer Willie Nelson's. It begins by saying:

 Oh the land of cloudless day
   Oh the land of an unclouded sky
   Oh they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise
   Oh they tell me of an unclouded day

The song is joyous and often brings tears to listeners eyes. However, outside a church or music festival, clouds are essential to life and they are shifting dramatically because of climate change.

According to new satellite investigations at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Coloardo State University, Lawrence Livermore, and UC Riverside clouds have dramatically shifted locations, moving polewards and higher in the atmosphere, while sub-tropical dry-zones have expanded. The new data shows that between the 1980's-2000's large-scale patterns of cloud-cover change observed by the satellites is similar to patterns predicted by computer simulations. This adds more confirmation to the expected effects of atmospheric warming on climate change.


     Satellite Records and Climate Model Aggreement, 1980's-2000's (credit: Joel Norris)

The lead author of the study Joel Norris commented:

“What this research brings to the table is the first credible demonstration that the cloud changes we expect from climate models and theory are currently happening”.

The new paper summarized changes by global region concluding that “cloud amount and albedo increased over the northwest Indian Ocean, the northwest and southwest tropical Pacific Ocean, and north of the Equator in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Cloud amount and albedo decreased over mid-latitude oceans in both hemispheres, over the southeast Indian Ocean, and in a northwest-to-southeast line stretching across the central tropical South Pacific.”

Dr. Norris offered his perspective on the complicated interactions between clouds, the atmorsphere, and climate change during an early Scripps lecture before the new results were published by Nature Magazine.

How these changes to abundance and distribution of clouds will impact rainfall, temperature, and other climatic conditions is still poorly known. However, locations dependent upon ample cloud cover for moisture such as cloud forests, tropical rainforests, and predictable monsoons required for mountain snowpacks and lowland agriculture could be adversely impacted.

Now might not be a good time to wish for an unclouded sky except at a music festival.




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