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Cloud Vertical Structure and Its Variations from a 20-Yr Global Rawinsonde Dataset

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  • 1 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado*
  • | 2 NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York
  • | 3 Department of Applied Physics and Mathematics, Columbia University, New York, New York
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Abstract

A global cloud vertical structure (CVS) climatic dataset is created by applying an analysis method to a 20-yr collection of twice-daily rawinsonde humidity profiles to estimate the height of cloud layers. The CVS dataset gives the vertical distribution of cloud layers for single and multilayered clouds, as well as the top and base heights and layer thicknesses of each layer, together with the original rawinsonde profiles of temperature, humidity, and winds. The average values are cloud-top height = 4.0 km above mean sea level (MSL), cloud-base height = 2.4 km MSL, cloud-layer thickness = 1.6 km, and separation distance between consecutive layers = 2.2 km. Multilayered clouds occur 42% of the time and are predominately two-layered. The lowest layer of multilayered cloud systems is usually located in the atmospheric boundary layer (below 2-km height MSL). Clouds over the ocean occur more frequently at lower levels and are more often formed in multiple layers than over land. Latitudinal variations of CVS also show maxima and minima that correspond to the locations of the intertropical convergence zone, the summer monsoons, the subtropical subsidence zones, and the midlatitude storm zones. Multilayered clouds exist most frequently in the Tropics and least frequently in the subtropics; there are more multilayered clouds in summer than in winter. Cloud layers are thicker in winter than in summer at mid- and high latitudes, but are thinner in winter in Southeast Asia.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Junhong Wang, NCAR/SSSF, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307-3000.

Email: junhong@ucar.edu

Abstract

A global cloud vertical structure (CVS) climatic dataset is created by applying an analysis method to a 20-yr collection of twice-daily rawinsonde humidity profiles to estimate the height of cloud layers. The CVS dataset gives the vertical distribution of cloud layers for single and multilayered clouds, as well as the top and base heights and layer thicknesses of each layer, together with the original rawinsonde profiles of temperature, humidity, and winds. The average values are cloud-top height = 4.0 km above mean sea level (MSL), cloud-base height = 2.4 km MSL, cloud-layer thickness = 1.6 km, and separation distance between consecutive layers = 2.2 km. Multilayered clouds occur 42% of the time and are predominately two-layered. The lowest layer of multilayered cloud systems is usually located in the atmospheric boundary layer (below 2-km height MSL). Clouds over the ocean occur more frequently at lower levels and are more often formed in multiple layers than over land. Latitudinal variations of CVS also show maxima and minima that correspond to the locations of the intertropical convergence zone, the summer monsoons, the subtropical subsidence zones, and the midlatitude storm zones. Multilayered clouds exist most frequently in the Tropics and least frequently in the subtropics; there are more multilayered clouds in summer than in winter. Cloud layers are thicker in winter than in summer at mid- and high latitudes, but are thinner in winter in Southeast Asia.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Junhong Wang, NCAR/SSSF, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307-3000.

Email: junhong@ucar.edu

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