Al Gore says that clouds are growing more important in scientific studies of global warming. Speaking at a conference last week, Gore discussed reports from several scientific journals on the varying roles played by clouds in climate change models. Drifting between his roles as a politician and a Hollywood mogul, the former Vice President is working to keep scientists from fighting over their results in the hope they can work together.
There has been substantial conflict in the scientific community about clouds and global warming. There is a general consensus that clouds reflect heat from the sun away from the earth, but also serve to keep the earth's own heat in. The battles are mostly over which function has the greater impact, though other disputes exist.
One group of scientists, known as the Reflecting Group, based in Helsinki, argues that the reflection of the sun's heat is more important in global cooling. Meanwhile the Blanket Consensus, based in Oslo, focuses on how clouds keep heat in (like a blanket) with a warming effect. Even within the groups there is substantial disagreement. Among "Reflectors", there is an ongoing dialog about the degree of convexity of the mirror-like function of the clouds and the extent to which such convexity matters. "Blanketophiles" quibble over a concept they call "color", where blue clouds are thought to hold in more heat than pink ones. Still deeper, some feminists criticize the blue/pink characterization as sexist.
Working for greater harmony in the climate change modeling community, Al Gore is arranging a series of conferences where both sides can "look at themselves in the mirror and avoid smothering each other with blankets". The first conference is set for Las Vegas in August, with other dates to be announced.