Four-Dimensional Structure of Monthly Latent Heating Derived from SSM/ISatellite Measurements

Song Yang Department of Meteorology and Supercomputer Computations Research Institute, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

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Eric A. Smith Department of Meteorology and Supercomputer Computations Research Institute, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

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Abstract

Time–space distributions of mean monthly latent heating estimated from Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) passive microwave satellite measurements using the Florida State University precipitation profile retrieval algorithm over ocean regions are investigated for the 1992 annual cycle. The space domain is considered in both horizontal and vertical coordinates, with vertical retrieval made possible by the profiling design of the rain algorithm and the underlying relationship between the vertical derivatives of equivalent liquid water mass fluxes and latent heat release.

Comparisons of the retrieved mean monthly rainfall and rain frequency to climatological datasets and atoll rain gauge measurements indicate reasonable agreement except at latitudes above 40° where the satellite values are low biased relative to the climatologies. The horizontal distributions of mean monthly latent heating show that the locations of maximum heating lie in the vicinity and along the axes of well-documented large-scale convergence areas, particularly the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) and its transient offshoots, the South Pacific convergence zone (SPCZ), the tropical monsoon systems, and the middle-latitude storm tracks. The vertical distributions show that maximum heating rates of 5°C day−1 are located near the 5-km height level with positive heating extending to the top of the troposphere in the Tropics. Convection shifts associated with the 1992 El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) episode are well represented in the latent heating field. The seasonal variations of the ITCZ, SPCZ, and monsoon systems are clearly evident. The intraseasonal oscillation of latent heating during the northward propagation of the summer Indian monsoon is also a well-defined feature. Finally, the evolution of the Walker circulation is clearly depicted for both active and inactive ENSO conditions throughout 1992.

Emphasis is given to comparison and contrast of the SSM/I-derived heating fields to results given in the published literature. Many of the stationary and transient features appearing in the retrievals are consistent with previous studies concerning cloudiness, convection, and rainfall over low latitudes, with the exceptions stemming from specific features of the 1992 ENSO event. Therefore, the study provides a framework for using SSM/I measurements as a means to estimate the four-dimensional structure of latent heating over the tropical–subtropical oceans. Since the details of these structures are of considerable importance to the earth’s weather–climate system both in terms of forcing and response, and by virtue of the design of a rain profiling algorithm, these results are presented as a necessary first step in seeking to use satellite measurements to obtain the most important component of the diabatic heating field.

Corresponding author address: Prof. Eric A. Smith, Department of Meteorology, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-3034.

Email: esmith@metsat.met.fsu.edu

Abstract

Time–space distributions of mean monthly latent heating estimated from Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) passive microwave satellite measurements using the Florida State University precipitation profile retrieval algorithm over ocean regions are investigated for the 1992 annual cycle. The space domain is considered in both horizontal and vertical coordinates, with vertical retrieval made possible by the profiling design of the rain algorithm and the underlying relationship between the vertical derivatives of equivalent liquid water mass fluxes and latent heat release.

Comparisons of the retrieved mean monthly rainfall and rain frequency to climatological datasets and atoll rain gauge measurements indicate reasonable agreement except at latitudes above 40° where the satellite values are low biased relative to the climatologies. The horizontal distributions of mean monthly latent heating show that the locations of maximum heating lie in the vicinity and along the axes of well-documented large-scale convergence areas, particularly the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) and its transient offshoots, the South Pacific convergence zone (SPCZ), the tropical monsoon systems, and the middle-latitude storm tracks. The vertical distributions show that maximum heating rates of 5°C day−1 are located near the 5-km height level with positive heating extending to the top of the troposphere in the Tropics. Convection shifts associated with the 1992 El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) episode are well represented in the latent heating field. The seasonal variations of the ITCZ, SPCZ, and monsoon systems are clearly evident. The intraseasonal oscillation of latent heating during the northward propagation of the summer Indian monsoon is also a well-defined feature. Finally, the evolution of the Walker circulation is clearly depicted for both active and inactive ENSO conditions throughout 1992.

Emphasis is given to comparison and contrast of the SSM/I-derived heating fields to results given in the published literature. Many of the stationary and transient features appearing in the retrievals are consistent with previous studies concerning cloudiness, convection, and rainfall over low latitudes, with the exceptions stemming from specific features of the 1992 ENSO event. Therefore, the study provides a framework for using SSM/I measurements as a means to estimate the four-dimensional structure of latent heating over the tropical–subtropical oceans. Since the details of these structures are of considerable importance to the earth’s weather–climate system both in terms of forcing and response, and by virtue of the design of a rain profiling algorithm, these results are presented as a necessary first step in seeking to use satellite measurements to obtain the most important component of the diabatic heating field.

Corresponding author address: Prof. Eric A. Smith, Department of Meteorology, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-3034.

Email: esmith@metsat.met.fsu.edu

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