Climate Data

Cloud Dataset Overview

Clouds cover a significant portion of the earth's surface. They are important components of the cliimate's water and energy budgets. Historically, cloud reports have come from station or ship observations. This limited use of these observations for climate studies. However, since the satellite era (~1979) began, large scale estimates of cloud cover and cloud type over a wide temporal and spatial sampling scales have become available. These satellite basd cloud observations have been used in many studies but they are affected
by instrument biases and algorithm issues.

Correctly simulating clouds in forecast and climate models is a major scientific endeavor. High quality observational datasets are crucial to the development of this objective.

Key Strengths:

  • Satellite coverage is large scale

Key Limitations:

  • Instrument biases and algorithm issues can significantly affect estimates.
  • Differing satellite instrumentation makes combining results difficult.

Key Figures

Click the thumbnails to view larger sizes



Schematic of common clouds (copyright: University Corporation for Atmospheric Research)

Cite this page

National Center for Atmospheric Research Staff (Eds). Last modified 07 Nov 2013. "The Climate Data Guide: Cloud Dataset Overview." Retrieved from

Acknowledgement of any material taken from this page is appreciated. On behalf of experts who have contributed data, advice, and/or figures, please cite their work as well.