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News Release 10-211

NSF Releases Online, Multimedia Package Titled, "Clouds: The Wild Card of Climate Change"

Reader-friendly multimedia package covers the crucial but enigmatic role of clouds on climate change, and how scientists are defining that role

Photo of clouds from an airplane over Michigan.

Clouds from an airplane over Michigan.

November 4, 2010

View a webcast with David Randall, professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University.

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

As discussions about climate change continue, one critical factor about this phenomenon has remained largely unknown to the public: the important but enigmatic role of clouds in climate change. The role of clouds is important because at any given time about 70 percent of the Earth is covered by clouds. The role of clouds is enigmatic because clouds can exert opposing forces: Some types of clouds help cool the Earth and some types of clouds help warm it. Which effect will win out as our climate continues to change? So far, no one is certain.

In order to help clear the air on clouds, the National Science Foundation is releasing an online multimedia package on the role of clouds on climate change, entitled, "Clouds: The Wild Card of Climate Change." It addresses such pressing questions as, will clouds help speed or slow climate change? Why is cloud behavior so difficult to predict? And how in the world are scientists learning to project the behavior of these ephemeral, ever-changing, high-altitude phenomena?

"Clouds: The Wild Card of Climate Change" features:

  • a live webcast with cloud and climate expert: David Randall, director of the Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes and a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University;
  • informative, easy-to-understand texts;
  • eye-catching photos;
  • a narrated slide show;
  • dynamic animations;
  • enlightening interviews with cloud researchers; and
  • downloadable documents.

This package--which provides a wealth of information to reporters, policymakers, scientists, educators, the public and students of all levels--is posted on NSF's website.


Media Contacts
Lily Whiteman, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-8310, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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