In 2007 the IPCC reiterated that clouds remain the largest source of uncertainty in climate projections. Clouds in the atmospheric boundary layer, and in particular the subtropical cloud transition from stratocumulus to cumulus, appear to play a key role in cloud-climate feedbacks. Recent studies have highlighted the lack of complete understanding of the properties of the transition and the fact that current climate models are still far from realistically representing the physics and dynamics of the subtropical cloud transition.
In this presentation recent results on the global characterization of the subtropical cloud transition are used to illustrate the essential properties of the transition but also the need for a comprehensive understanding of the transition properties. Different types of models and theories that address the interactions between the small-scale turbulence and cloud physics, and large-scale climate processes are reviewed. Finally, simple models of some of the essential climatological aspects of the transition are presented.
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