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A High-Resolution Analysis of Cloud Amount and Type over Complex Topography

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  • 1 National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Wellington, New Zealand
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Abstract

This paper reports on the first application of a multispectral textural Bayesian cloud classification algorithm (“SRTex”) to the general problem of the determination of high–spatial resolution cloud-amount and cloud-type climatological distributions. One year of NOAA-14 daylight passes over a region of complex topography (the South Island of New Zealand and adjacent ocean areas) is analyzed, and exploratory cloud-amount and -type climatological distributions are developed. When validated against a set of surface observations, the cloud-amount distributions have no significant bias at seasonal and yearly timescales, and explain between 70% (seasonal) and 90% (annual) of the spatial variance in the surface observations.

The cloud-amount distributions show strong land/sea contrasts. Lowest cloud frequencies are found in the lee of the major alpine feature in the analysis domain (the Southern Alps) and over mountain-sheltered valleys and adjacent sea areas. Over the oceans, cloud frequencies are highest over sub-Antarctic water masses, and range from 90% to 95%. However, over the sea adjacent to the coast on the western side of the Southern Alps, there is a distinct minimum in cloud amount that appears to be related to the orography.

The cloud-type climatological distributions are analyzed in terms of both simple frequency of occurrence and conditional frequency of occurrence, which is the frequency of occurrence as a fraction of the total number of times that the cloud type could have been observed. These distributions reveal the presence of preferred locations for some cloud types. There is strong evidence that uplift over major mountain ranges is a source of transmissive cirrus (enhancing occurrence by a factor of 2) and that the resulting cirrus coverage is most extensive and frequent in spring. Over the ocean areas, SST-related effects may determine the spatial distributions of stratocumulus, with higher frequencies observed over sub-Antarctic waters than over subtropical waters. Also, there is a positive correlation between mean cloud-top height and SST, but no similar relationship is found for other cloud types.

Corresponding author address: Michael J. Uddstrom, Principal Scientist, National Institute of Water and Research, Ltd., 301 Evans Bay Parade, Greta Point, P.O. Box 14-901, Kilbirnie, Wellington, New Zealand.

m.uddstrom@niwa.cri.nz

Abstract

This paper reports on the first application of a multispectral textural Bayesian cloud classification algorithm (“SRTex”) to the general problem of the determination of high–spatial resolution cloud-amount and cloud-type climatological distributions. One year of NOAA-14 daylight passes over a region of complex topography (the South Island of New Zealand and adjacent ocean areas) is analyzed, and exploratory cloud-amount and -type climatological distributions are developed. When validated against a set of surface observations, the cloud-amount distributions have no significant bias at seasonal and yearly timescales, and explain between 70% (seasonal) and 90% (annual) of the spatial variance in the surface observations.

The cloud-amount distributions show strong land/sea contrasts. Lowest cloud frequencies are found in the lee of the major alpine feature in the analysis domain (the Southern Alps) and over mountain-sheltered valleys and adjacent sea areas. Over the oceans, cloud frequencies are highest over sub-Antarctic water masses, and range from 90% to 95%. However, over the sea adjacent to the coast on the western side of the Southern Alps, there is a distinct minimum in cloud amount that appears to be related to the orography.

The cloud-type climatological distributions are analyzed in terms of both simple frequency of occurrence and conditional frequency of occurrence, which is the frequency of occurrence as a fraction of the total number of times that the cloud type could have been observed. These distributions reveal the presence of preferred locations for some cloud types. There is strong evidence that uplift over major mountain ranges is a source of transmissive cirrus (enhancing occurrence by a factor of 2) and that the resulting cirrus coverage is most extensive and frequent in spring. Over the ocean areas, SST-related effects may determine the spatial distributions of stratocumulus, with higher frequencies observed over sub-Antarctic waters than over subtropical waters. Also, there is a positive correlation between mean cloud-top height and SST, but no similar relationship is found for other cloud types.

Corresponding author address: Michael J. Uddstrom, Principal Scientist, National Institute of Water and Research, Ltd., 301 Evans Bay Parade, Greta Point, P.O. Box 14-901, Kilbirnie, Wellington, New Zealand.

m.uddstrom@niwa.cri.nz

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