Clouds amplify climate change, says Texas A&M University atmospheric sciences professor Andrew Dessler, rebutting recent claims by some that clouds are a root cause of climate change (for an analysis of the study that led to the concern, go here).

Dessler says decades of data support the mainstream and long-held view that clouds are primarily acting as a so-called feedback that amplifies warming from human activity.

Writing in Geophysical Research Letters, Dessler studied El Niño and La Niña cycles over the past 10 years and calculated the Earth's 'energy budget' during that time. El Nino and La Nina are cyclical events, roughly every five years, when waters in the central Pacific Ocean tend to get warmer or colder, changes which have a huge impact on much of the world's weather systems for months or even years. 

Texas is currently in one of the worst droughts in the state's history, and most scientists believe it is a direct result of La Niña conditions that have lingered in the Pacific Ocean for many months.  Dessler found that clouds played a very small role in initiating these climate variations, in agreement with mainstream climate science and in direct opposition to some previous claims.

"The bottom line is that clouds have not replaced humans as the cause of the recent warming the Earth is experiencing," Dessler says. "Over a century, however, clouds can indeed play an important role amplifying climate change. I hope my analysis puts an end to this claim that clouds are causing climate change."