Developing a quantitative understanding of the links between the radiation budget and the properties of the atmosphere that define these fluxes continues to be an important motivation for research on and measurement of the radiation budget (Wielicki et al., 1995). Progress on this topic continues to be elusive, however, owing in part to the limitations of existing TOA information. The nature of these limitations is exemplified in studies of the effects of clouds on TOA fluxes. It is well documented that the net effect of clouds on TOA fluxes is a balance between changes in solar fluxes associated with the larger albedo of clouds and changes in longwave emission to space associated with changes in cloud top altitude. These changes produce reciprocal effects that approximately balance at the top of the atmosphere but not within the atmosphere or at the surface. With NASA's recent selection of the CloudSat and PICASSO-CENA ESSP missions for launch, key measurements will begin to address this major limitation.
The next step in ERB measurements requires a more capable radiation budget observing system than currently exists. This new system should provide observations that will (1) establish a more direct link between the observed fluxes and the parameters that affect these fluxes and (2) provide an improved ability to measure the flux distributions within the atmosphere and at the surface. This will only be partially met by the coincident measurements of relevant properties such as cloud information and ERB fluxes expected in the EOS era.
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