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A World Without Clouds

By Quanta Magazine

A state-of-the-art supercomputer simulation indicates that a feedback loop between global warming and cloud loss can push Earth’s climate past a disastrousRead full story

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  • Matt Walters
    Matt WaltersFounding Partner at MissionLab Inc

    The more I read about global warming the more I notice these “feedback loops”. For example, the hotter and drier it gets in the western United States, the more wildfires increase, increasing the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which further raises global temperatures, which increases the number of wildfires, etc. This isn’t good, and it’s hard to see how this story ends well. It almost seems like it’s a matter of when, not if, we make this planet difficult for humans to live on.

  • Akshat Rathi
    Akshat RathiSenior reporter at Quartz

    The scariest thing is that it's not impossible that this could happen before 2100. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is at 410 ppm now and this gets triggered at about 1,200 ppm. For context, the preindustrial level was 280 ppm.

    So to get there, we'll have to go down the worst-case scenario route, where climate policies around the world are rolled back and we go on burning even more fossil fuels and likely dump all the cheaper, zero-carbon, renewable sources we are deploying today. Not likely to happen.

  • None of the climate change models match what’s actually happening. Warming is not occurring at near the pace set forth by much of the scientific community making me question the political motives behind the doomsday conclusions.

  • Jessica  Davidoff
    Jessica Davidoffpro3-time founder. CEO at STATE Bags.

    Global warming certainly is the MAJOR issue of our time.

  • Adam Pasick
    Adam PasickSenior Editor at Quartz

    I've looked at clouds from both sides now, and I'm absolutely terrified.

  • Steve Nevins
    Steve Nevins

    Computers only give us data, men interpret data and I think the interpretations reported in this article have built-in bias. I don't think the data supports the interpretation, there can be many other interpretations that may or may not be more accurate.

  • Michael Weston
    Michael WestonUtrzymac Wielka Ameryke

    Hold on just a moment. Just this past week we had a record breaking (100 years old) snowfall event in the desert southwest. Our local news explained (with graphics) the connection between the heavy precipitation and cold temps to global climate warming. The reason they proclaimed - "Warmer atmosphere means more water vapor". Aren't clouds water vapor? Why was it cold enough to bring snow to lower elevations?

    The global warming zealots can't even agree on all this nonsense!

  • “Earth was triggered, and all hell broke loose.”

    The missing factor? Clouds...☁️

  • Paul Finlayson
    Paul Finlayson

    Never understood how we had pre-industrial warming trends, because, of course human generated cO2 is the only variable that affects climate

  • Laurel Touby
    Laurel ToubyManaging Partner/GM at Supernode Ventures

    Wow. This is a must-read. I would have liked to have seen some suggested solutions for cloud creation. If that could help mitigate the climate crisis, we should get on this right away.

  • Dr Gail Barnes
    Dr Gail BarnesPartner at Personify LLC

    Why the Earth may be toast. A supercomputer simulation has indicated that there is a feedback loop between global warming and cloud loss, the result of which could push Earth’s climate past a tipping point in as little as a century.

  • I think it’s interesting that we truly do not have enough data about the earth, and what caused this warming 57 million years ago. “An unknown source” is of course the answer, but it should make us all pause and wonder about earth cycles.

  • Steve Jenks
    Steve JenksBoeing (retired)

    The article says this “tipping point is perhaps 100 to 150 years away IF we continue with business as usual. But we know that the USA and the EU are already in a slow decline. Don’t forget that we’re in a rare interglacial warming and we are perhaps 100,000 years “late” entering a full blown ice age. You know, with a mile or two of ice over New York... Besides, all it would take is a moderate-sized asteroid to make us as extinct as the dinosaurs!

  • Dustin Blake
    Dustin BlakeRaconteur at Making Government Smarter

    There are some lines that we *really* don’t want to cross, because very bad things will happen. No more clouds = much hotter planet (+8C from cloud loss alone) = Antarctic & Greenland ice rapidly melt = sea levels rise 200+ feet. There’s no way to undo that, and the next 200,000 years will not remember us and our dithering kindly. And that’s if humans survive at all.

    Though it might sound like we have some room before we get to that line, we really don’t need to push our luck in a game of ecocide-Chicken

    There are some lines that we *really* don’t want to cross, because very bad things will happen. No more clouds = much hotter planet (+8C from cloud loss alone) = Antarctic & Greenland ice rapidly melt = sea levels rise 200+ feet. There’s no way to undo that, and the next 200,000 years will not remember us and our dithering kindly. And that’s if humans survive at all.

    Though it might sound like we have some room before we get to that line, we really don’t need to push our luck in a game of ecocide-Chicken. Earth’s climate system is complex and vast, but the changes we are making are happening on a massive scale more rapidly than any geological time scale could ever do, so we’re bound to encounter even more unexpected surprises along the way. Each “gotcha” event (like sudden, rapid release of methane that had been previously sequestered in frozen tundra/permafrost but gets released once it thaws) hurtles us much closer to that line, though we won’t really know how much until it happens. Massive changes like these just can’t be undone–we humans aren’t capable of re-sequestering on that scale, and certainly not quickly enough to prevent the system from going critical.

    How many other nasty surprises could be lurking? We might already be too late to prevent the worst of it, but we better try. In 20 years, no one will wish we’d delayed making the drastic changes needed at whatever the cost required, because the actual costs–in human lives, lost economic productivity, and frantic and expensive adaptation and relocation will make trillions of $ seem like a fantastic deal.

  • Sean Stover
    Sean Stover

    I see no mention of the main driver in the temperature changes in earth's history which is the cycle the sun goes through.

  • Matthew Johnston
    Matthew Johnston

    I would say talk to India, China and every other developing country that HASN'T decreased emissions and instead has increased emissions. IPCC: If the US brought emissions to 0, the global temperature would only decrease by 0.16°F and virtually nothing would environmentally change

  • Rob Davidson
    Rob DavidsonFounder at Davidson Brothers Limited

    Well at least I won’t have to worry about my tan.

  • Russell Telker-Hernandez
    Russell Telker-HernandezVeteran

    Look at the full NASA and ice core research. Is there climate change, of course. However, it is not man made. The temp is rising on all of the planets in our solar system are. This due to the sun and where we are in the galaxy. We have not even reached the highest temps of the past 1000 years. There are no SUVs on Venues. How long will we allow these liars to keep sounding the false flag alarm? Only about 1% of climate scientists believe climate change is man made. Their research is all based on the same bad modeling. Enough is enough

  • Unfortunately 9/11 also offered a lesson about the power of clouds on the climate too // when flights were grounded, temperature variation increased by a few degrees just because of fewer contrails (those thin clouds that form behind planes). Lots of history to learn from, indeed.

  • Robert Weber
    Robert WeberDirector at MMINAIL

    "I've looked at clouds from both sides now!

    From up and down, and still somehow.

    It's cloud illusions I recall.

    I really don't know clouds at all ...!"

    Both Sides Now by @JoniMitchellCom

  • Gabriel Bergeron
    Gabriel Bergeron

    We need to get ASAP those "barrier" trapping pollution in the sea. (Someone already did it) We could improve and make sure there is actually less trash to give a chance to the Planktons.

    Without them even with threes we are dead!

    We need to stop the use of coal in the next 10 years and do a transition ASAP.

    There is many country suffering from coal exploitation.

    As stupid as it may sounds, meaby we should create our own "plankton" and try to filter air ourselves. (In 16+ years)

  • Harreld Dinkins
    Harreld Dinkinsenthusiast

    We are so screwed.

  • If you look at what the researchers did, this isn’t something they’re predicting or expecting. They backed into this, trying to see what it would take. It’s not a projection. It’s a beyond worst case scenario.

  • Jonathan Doyel
    Jonathan Doyel

    The science on this topic is so difficult to separate from the politics that news is very difficult to sort through.

    It’s my understanding that model predictions 50 years out pretty much run the gambit a possibility. It’s similar to those hurricane trackers. About three days out they’re pretty accurate. But a week and a half out everyone’s guess is pretty valid.

    Headlines like this are at best dubious.

  • D G
    D G

    "The scariest thing is that it's not impossible that this could happen before 2100."

    No the scariest thing is that there are people who willfully deny the truth of this simply to enrich themselves and their political allies. Even if climate change was not real, would it be so bad to live in a world with cleaner air?

  • Asher Jacobson
    Asher Jacobson

    Does this model actually predict the evidence, i.e. historical temps?

  • Robert Munroe
    Robert Munroe

    One of the coolest things about global warming is the inability to stop it once it starts and it’s reset. Basic thermodynamics states water holds temperature better than land. Manning it’s more resistant to change. It’s why beaches are warming in winter than inland towns. Which that set as oceans rise, they can hold temperature better and land shrinks which couldn’t hold temperature as well. So the Earth officially becomes more regular, and warmer. This is a cycle that speeds up as it goes. As water

    One of the coolest things about global warming is the inability to stop it once it starts and it’s reset. Basic thermodynamics states water holds temperature better than land. Manning it’s more resistant to change. It’s why beaches are warming in winter than inland towns. Which that set as oceans rise, they can hold temperature better and land shrinks which couldn’t hold temperature as well. So the Earth officially becomes more regular, and warmer. This is a cycle that speeds up as it goes. As water rises more water comes in and faster.

    The rest is almost guarantied to be an ice age. In the 1800 there was an astroid that hit Russia. It picked up so much dust in August it was snowing in England. As oceans hear more water enters the cycle. Meaning clouds disappear but instead become a mist of condensation. Eventually everything freezes because we blocked out the sun. The co2 will become slightly reflexive and all the clouds block out the sun.

  • Alberto Marquez
    Alberto Marquez

    This was supposed to be a place where smart people gave feedback yet there are many who still deny the evident. They should sing "thank God I ain't no polar bear" at the John Denver's "thanks God I'm a country boy".

  • Drew Williams
    Drew Williams

    Gosh! A SUPERcomputer! That would have impressed 30 years ago. It's not the computer, it's the theorists and the data they choose to model. And for every model that supports this story, there's one that refutes it. Have we learned nothing from centuries of "Man is bad and the world is going to end"? Listening to the passion this topic evokes, it's hard to say. But one way or the other, this discussion has to become a lot more evenhanded.

  • joe blank
    joe blank

    And, if you have not heard: it's getting colder starting next week. Real Experts know that the conclusion you draw all depend upon the Time Period you use for Analysis. Compared with the ice age we are Warmer. Compared with the Ecocene Period - we are COLDER.

    More Eco Govt is the objective of the Environmentalists - its OBVIOUS Mr. Gore.

  • Jeff Hill
    Jeff Hill

    cloudo will neverstop forming over the ocean the x factor Is a Solar maximum

  • Stephen Lane
    Stephen Lane

    Humans must speed up transition to clean and renewable energy sources and end the monopoly that big government and big business has over the political agenda to ensure a long-term future for the fossil fuel industry.

    We now have the technological capabilities to move forward, it must be done.

  • Dennis Morrison
    Dennis Morrison

    Who programmed the super computer??? Was it the same group who came up with the global warming climate models that have proven to be totally inaccurate???

  • Bill Ault
    Bill Ault

    It amazes me the hoops the climate delayers jump through to land on a space that says nah we'll be fine. There's nothing happening to justify concern.

  • Bonnie Miller
    Bonnie Miller

    Wow! Not to be ignored.

  • Aidan McLean
    Aidan McLean

    This article also includes a depiction of how warming sea levels break up clouds

  • Alarmist. Fear monger in at its finest!

  • mike pouraryan
    mike pouraryanthe daily outsider

    😢😢😢

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