Fundamental puzzles of climate science remain unsolved because of our limited understanding of how clouds, circulation and climate interact. One example is our inability to provide robust assessments of future global and regional climate changes. However, ongoing advances in our capacity to observe, simulate and conceptualize the climate system now make it possible to fill gaps in our knowledge. We argue that progress can be accelerated by focusing research on a handful of important scientific questions that have become tractable as a result of recent advances. We propose four such questions below; they involve understanding the role of cloud feedbacks and convective organization in climate, and the factors that control the position, the strength and the variability of the tropical rain belts and the extratropical storm tracks.