Ship observations and ocean models indicate that heat export from the mixed layer of the western Pacific warm pool is small (<20 watts per square meter). This value was used to deduce the effect of clouds on the net solar radiation at the sea surface. The inferred magnitude of this shortwave cloud forcing was large (-≈-100 watts per square meter) and exceeded its observed value at the top of the atmosphere by a factor of about 1.5. This result implies that clouds (at least over the warm pool) reduce net solar radiation at the sea surface not only by reflecting a significant amount back to space, but also by trapping a large amount in the cloudy atmosphere, an inference that is at variance with most model results. The excess cloud absorption, if confirmed, has many climatic implications, including a significant reduction in the required tropics to extratropics heat transport in the oceans.
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