A paper by Daniel Kitzmann, et al. (2010) entitled “Clouds in the Atmospheres of Extrasolar Planets. I. Climatic Effects of Multi-layered Clouds for Earth-like Planets and Implications for Habitable Zones” studies the impact of clouds on the surface temperatures of Earth-like planets orbiting different types of stars. Clouds play a vital role in determining the climatic conditions of planetary atmospheres by reflecting incident stellar radiation back into space via the albedo effect and by trapping infrared radiation in the atmosphere via the greenhouse effect. For the Earth, low-level clouds cause cooling via the albedo effect and high-level clouds cause heating via the greenhouse effect. For mid-level clouds, the albedo effect and greenhouse effect generally balance each other.
In this paper, studies were done for Earth-like planets orbiting F, G, K and M-type stars. Note that our Sun is a G-type star and for this range of stellar types, F-type stars are the hottest while M-type stars are the coolest. With respect to a clear sky model, a planet with a higher percentage of high-level clouds will have a higher surface temperature while a planet with a higher percentage of low-level clouds will have a lower surface temperature. This characteristic applies to all Earth-like planets orbiting F, G, K and M-type stars.
For the Earth, the presence of clouds creates a net cooling effect with respect to the clear sky model and the mean value of the Earth’s surface temperature is 288.4 degrees Kelvin. Using just low-level clouds for maximum cooling effect, planets can be located up to 15 percent closer to their parent star compared to a clear sky planet to achieve the same average Earth’s surface temperature of 288.4 degrees Kelvin. On the contrary, using just high-level clouds for maximum heating effect, planets can be located up to 35 percent further from their parent star compared to a clear sky planet to achieve the average Earth’s surface temperature.