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Clouds obviously have a strong effect on surface temperatures. By blocking sunlight they can decrease the temperature by several degrees. At night they have a blanket effect that traps warm air and can increase nighttime temperatures.

I'm asking about long term averages that would affect climate, rather than transient levels that affect day-to-day weather.

From what I read, the way clouds will be affected by a change in global temperatures is still very much up in the air, if you'll pardon my pun. What I'm wanting to know is whether clouds are more likely to form during daylight hours, when water vapor is rising from the surface, or at night when the temperatures are lower. This might also be different between low altitude and high altitude clouds.

The articles I read are also not clear on whether clouds, currently, have a net warming or cooling effect. Is there any consensus on which is true? Intuitively, to me, it seems that the cooling effect of daytime cloud cover is many times higher than the warming affect of nighttime cloud cover. Am I wrong about this?

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  • $\begingroup$ Consider that clouds have a warming effect both at day and night. And not by trapping warm air, but by contributing to the greenhouse effect. $\endgroup$ – Camilo Rada Sep 22 '18 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ @CamiloRada That's a definite consideration. I'm basically trying to keep the question from getting too broad. From what I understand, the water vapor has the greenhouse effect whether it is in the form of a cloud or not, so I'm focusing the question on when that vapor is likely to condense into a cloud. $\endgroup$ – Tom Sep 22 '18 at 0:54

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