Regional Cloud Cover Change Associated with Global Climate Change: Case Studies for Three Regions of the United States

Meredith S. Croke Miller Place High School, Miller Place, New York

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Robert D. Cess Marine Sciences Research Center, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York

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Sultan Hameed Marine Sciences Research Center, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York

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Abstract

Land-based observations of cloud cover, for the period 1900–87 and averaged over three geographical regions of the United States (coastal southwest, coastal northeast, and southern plains), show strong positive correlations with one estimate of global mean surface temperature, a finding consistent with prior investigations that suggest cloud cover over land has increased during global warm periods relative to cold periods. It is also found that the strengths of three permanent high/low pressure systems (North Pacific high, Icelandic low, and Azores high) are negatively correlated with global mean surface temperature, suggesting a possible connection between regional cloud cover, for certain locations, and the strengths of adjacent high/low pressure systems. Specifically, for the regions considered it is suggested that the coastal southwest cloud cover is related to changes in the strength of the subtropical North Pacific high, that for the southern plains also to the strength of the North Pacific high, and that for the coastal northeast to the strength of the Icelandic low. Thus the climate-induced change in cloud cover for certain regions appears related, at least in part, to climate-induced change in the strengths of adjacent high/low pressure systems, and plausible physical explanations for this relation are provided for the three regions that have been studied. This does not, of course, provide a direct physical cause-and-effect explanation for the changes in regional cloud cover, because the mechanisms that cause the intensities of the high/low pressure systems to change are not understood.

* Current affiliation: Honors College, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Robert D. Cess, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Marine Sciences Research Center, Stony Brook, NY 11790-5000.

Email: cess@atmsci.msrc.sunysb.edu

Abstract

Land-based observations of cloud cover, for the period 1900–87 and averaged over three geographical regions of the United States (coastal southwest, coastal northeast, and southern plains), show strong positive correlations with one estimate of global mean surface temperature, a finding consistent with prior investigations that suggest cloud cover over land has increased during global warm periods relative to cold periods. It is also found that the strengths of three permanent high/low pressure systems (North Pacific high, Icelandic low, and Azores high) are negatively correlated with global mean surface temperature, suggesting a possible connection between regional cloud cover, for certain locations, and the strengths of adjacent high/low pressure systems. Specifically, for the regions considered it is suggested that the coastal southwest cloud cover is related to changes in the strength of the subtropical North Pacific high, that for the southern plains also to the strength of the North Pacific high, and that for the coastal northeast to the strength of the Icelandic low. Thus the climate-induced change in cloud cover for certain regions appears related, at least in part, to climate-induced change in the strengths of adjacent high/low pressure systems, and plausible physical explanations for this relation are provided for the three regions that have been studied. This does not, of course, provide a direct physical cause-and-effect explanation for the changes in regional cloud cover, because the mechanisms that cause the intensities of the high/low pressure systems to change are not understood.

* Current affiliation: Honors College, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Robert D. Cess, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Marine Sciences Research Center, Stony Brook, NY 11790-5000.

Email: cess@atmsci.msrc.sunysb.edu

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