It is widely assumed that variations in Earth's radiative energy budget at large time and space scales are small. We present new evidence from a compilation of over two decades of accurate satellite data that the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) tropical radiative energy budget is much more dynamic and variable than previously thought. Results indicate that the radiation budget changes are caused by changes in tropical mean cloudiness. The results of several current climate model simulations fail to predict this large observed variation in tropical energy budget. The missing variability in the models highlights the critical need to improve cloud modeling in the tropics so that prediction of tropical climate on interannual and decadal time scales can be improved.
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