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Investigating the Enigma of Clouds and Climate Change

Clouds perform an important function in cooling the planet as they reflect solar energy back into space. Yet clouds also intensify warming by trapping the planet’s heat and radiating it back to earth. As fossil fuel emissions continue to warm the planet, how will this dual role played by clouds change, and will clouds ultimately exacerbate or moderate global warming?

Kate Marvel, a physicist at Columbia University and a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is investigating the mysteries of clouds and climate change. And while she and her colleagues would like to offer definitive answers on this subject, the fact is that few now exist.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Marvel discusses what is known about the behavior of clouds in a warming world (they are migrating more toward the poles), explains why strict controls need to be imposed on geoengineering experiments with clouds, and talks about why she is confident that science and human ingenuity will ultimately overcome the challenge of climate change.


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