Climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer has pointed out in his book,
“The most obvious way for warming to be caused naturally is for small, natural fluctuations in the circulation patterns of the atmosphere and ocean to result in a 1% or 2% decrease in global cloud cover. Clouds are the Earth’s sunshade, and if cloud cover changes for any reason, you have global warming — or global cooling.”
We continue that conversation with this entry from Paul Homewood.
We’ve been discussing the sudden rise in UK and European temperatures in the 1990s, and I was reminded about a study undertaken by Clive Best and Euan Mearns looking at the role of cloud cover four years ago:
Clouds have a net average cooling effect on the earth’s climate. Climate models assume that changes in cloud cover are a feedback response to CO2 warming. Is this assumption valid? Following a study with Euan Mearns showing a strong correlation in UK temperatures with clouds, we looked at the global effects of clouds by developing a combined cloud and CO2 forcing model to sudy how variations in both cloud cover  and CO2  data affect global temperature anomalies between 1983 and 2008. The model as described below gives a good fit to HADCRUT4 data with a Transient Climate Response (TCR )= 1.6±0.3°C. The 17-year hiatus in warming can then be explained as resulting from a stabilization in global cloud cover since 1998. An excel spreadsheet implementing the model as described below can be downloaded from http://clivebest.com/GCC
The full post containing all of the detailed statistical analysis is here.
But this is the key graph:
Figure 1a showing the ISCCP global averaged monthly cloud cover from July 1983 to Dec 2008 over-laid in blue with Hadcrut4 monthly anomaly data. The fall in cloud cover coincides with a rapid rise in temperatures from 1983-1999. Thereafter the temperature and cloud trends have both flattened. The CO2 forcing from 1998 to 2008 increases by a further ~0.3 W/m2 which is evidence that changes in clouds are not a direct feedback to CO2 forcing.
In conclusion, natural cyclic change in global cloud cover has a greater impact on global average temperatures than CO2. There is little evidence of a direct feedback relationship between clouds and CO2. Based on satellite measurements of cloud cover (ISCCP), net cloud forcing (CERES) and CO2 levels (KEELING) we developed a model for predicting global temperatures. This results in a best-fit value for TCR = 1.4 ± 0.3°C. Summer cloud forcing has a larger effect in the northern hemisphere resulting in a lower TCR = 1.0 ± 0.3°C. Natural phenomena must influence clouds although the details remain unclear, although the CLOUD experiment has given hints that increased fluxes of cosmic rays may increase cloud seeding . In conclusion, the gradual reduction in net cloud cover explains over 50% of global warming observed during the 80s and 90s, and the hiatus in warming since 1998 coincides with a stabilization of cloud forcing.
Why there was a decrease in cloud cover is another question of course.
In addition to Paul Homewood’ piece, we have this WUWT story from 2012:
Spencer’s posited 1-2% cloud cover variation found
A paper published last week finds that cloud cover over China significantly decreased during the period 1954-2005. This finding is in direct contradiction to the theory of man-made global warming which presumes that warming allegedly from CO2 ‘should’ cause an increase in water vapor and cloudiness. The authors also find the decrease in cloud cover was not related to man-made aerosols, and thus was likely a natural phenomenon, potentially a result of increased solar activity via the Svensmark theory or other mechanisms.