Clouds are an all too familiar sight in our climate. Clouds form on Earth when water on the ground, in stores of the water cycle, is heated by the sun. Vapour forms which acts as warm air, this air rises and pressure is reduced, when the air expands it cools and hence the temperature drops below the dew point – when cold air cannot hold as much water vapour as warmer air, it has less carrying capacity. Many particles are present within the air, including pollution, smoke and dust, such materials act as a nucleus to which water molecules can attach. When such molecules collide together again and again, a cloud forms.
Can the presence of clouds be linked to changes in our climatic conditions? Since just 1950, the planets average surface temperature has risen by around 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit. Clouds reflect sunlight, which cools the earth as there are less direct rays hitting our surface. However, they also have the opposing effect in trapping heat, in a familiar fashion to greenhouse gases, which warms the Earth. Overall, hence the net impact that clouds have on climate change can be seen as seemingly neutral.
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