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Clouds

  • By: David B. Mechem
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

A cloud is any visible mass of liquid drops or ice crystals suspended above the surface of the Earth. In addition to their obvious importance in producing precipitation, clouds play an important role in large-scale circulation by cycling water and energy through the atmosphere. Because of their generally high albedo but widely varying temperature, clouds constitute an important feedback in the global radiation balance and are a significant source of the uncertainty in estimates of global climate change. A simple overview of clouds can proceed from an introduction to the traditional cloud classification scheme and a discussion of rudimentary cloud microphysical processes. The development of global cloud climatologies and methods of assessing the influence of clouds on climate are included as being particularly relevant to ...

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