Fundamental puzzles of climate science remain unsolved because of our limited understanding of how clouds, circulation and climate interact. One example is our inability to provide robust assessments of future global and regional climate changes. However, ongoing advances in our capacity to observe, simulate and conceptualize the climate system now make it possible to fill gaps in our knowledge. We argue that progress can be accelerated by focusing research on a handful of important scientific questions that have become tractable as a result of recent advances. We propose four such questions below; they involve understanding the role of cloud feedbacks and convective organization in climate, and the factors that control the position, the strength and the variability of the tropical rain belts and the extratropical storm tracks.
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This paper was developed as part of the Grand Challenge on Clouds, Circulation and Climate Sensitivity of the World Climate Research Programme. The process of identifying a handful of key scientific questions culminated in a workshop whose participants are gratefully acknowledged: D. Abbot, P. Bauer, M. Biasutti, H. Douville, J-L. Dufresne, A. Del Genio, K. Emanuel, Q. Fu, J. Hargreaves, S. Harrison, I. Held, C. Hohenegger, B. Hoskins, S. Kang, H. Kawai, S. A. Klein, N. Loeb, T. Mauritsen, B. Mapes, M. Miller, C. Muller, C. Prentice, C. Risi, M. Satoh, C. Schumacher, B. Wielicki, M. Yoshimori and P. Zuidema. We thank the German Weather Service, PMIP, EUMETSAT and NASA for data. M. Doutriaux-Boucher (EUMETSAT) provided the satellite products used in Fig. 2a and b. S.B. and B.S. acknowledge support from the LABEX L-IPSL and the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science. M.J.W. was supported by the Joint UK DECC/Defra Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme (GA01101).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Bony, S., Stevens, B., Frierson, D. et al. Clouds, circulation and climate sensitivity. Nature Geosci 8, 261–268 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2398
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