An Analysis of the Short-Term Cloud Feedback Using MODIS Data Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractThe cloud feedback in response to short-term climate variations is estimated from cloud measurements combined with offline radiative transfer calculations. The cloud measurements are made by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite and cover the period 200010. Low clouds provide a strong negative cloud feedback, mainly because of their impact in the shortwave (SW) portion of the spectrum. Midlevel clouds provide a positive net cloud feedback that is a combination of a positive SW feedback partially canceled by a negative feedback in the longwave (LW). High clouds have only a small impact on the net cloud feedback because of a close cancellation between large LW and SW cloud feedbacks. Segregating the clouds by optical depth, it is found that the net cloud feedback is set by a positive cloud feedback due to reductions in the thickest clouds (mainly in the SW) and a cancelling negative feedback from increases in clouds with moderate optical depths (also mainly in the SW). The global average SW, LW, and net cloud feedbacks are +0.30 1.10, 0.46 0.74, and 0.16 0.83 W m2 K1, respectively. The SW feedback is consistent with previous work; the MODIS LW feedback is lower than previous calculations and there are reasons to suspect it may be biased low. Finally, it is shown that the apparently small control that global mean surface temperature exerts on clouds, which leads to the large uncertainty in the short-term cloud feedback, arises from statistically significant but offsetting relationships between individual cloud types and global mean surface temperature.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 10.294

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhou, C., Zelinka, M. D., Dessler, A. E., & Yang, P.

citation count

  • 49

complete list of authors

  • Zhou, Chen||Zelinka, Mark D||Dessler, Andrew E||Yang, Ping

publication date

  • July 2013