Climate change kills off clouds over the ocean in new simulation

We all know climate change is affecting weather systems and ecosystems around the world, but exactly how and in what way is still a topic of intense study. New simulations made possible by higher-powered computers suggest that cloud cover over oceans may die off altogether once a certain level of CO2 has been reached, accelerating warming and contributing to a vicious cycle.
A paper published in Nature details the new, far more detailed simulation of cloud formation and the effects of solar radiation thereupon. The researchers, from the California Institute of Technology, explain that previous simulation techniques were not nearly granular enough to resolve effects happening at the scale of meters rather than kilometers.
These global climate models seem particularly bad at predicting the stratocumulus clouds that hover over the ocean — and that’s a big problem, they noted:
As stratocumulus clouds cover 20% of the tropical oceans and critically affect the Earth’s energy balance (they reflect 30–60% of the shortwave radiation incident on them back to space1), problems simulating their climate change response percolate into the global climate response.
A more accurate and precise simulation of clouds was necessary to tell how increasing temperatures and greenhouse gas concentrations might affect them. That’s one thing technology can help with.
Thanks to “advances in high-performance computing and large-eddy simulation (LES) of clouds,” the researchers were able to “faithfully simulate statistically steady states of stratocumulus-topped boundary layers in restricted regions.” A “restricted region” in this case means the 5×5-km area simulated in detail.

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