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Temporal Changes in the Observed Relationship between Cloud Cover and Surface Air Temperature

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  • 1 Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts
  • | 2 National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina
  • | 3 Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts
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Abstract

The relationship between cloud cover and near-surface air temperature and its decadal changes are examined using the hourly synoptic data for the past four to six decades from five regions of the Northern Hemisphere: Canada, the United States, the former Soviet Union, China, and tropical islands of the western Pacific. The authors define the normalized cloud cover–surface air temperature relationship, NOCET or dT/dCL, as a temperature anomaly with a unit (one-tenth) deviation of total cloud cover from its average value. Then mean monthly NOCET time series (night- and daytime, separately) are area-averaged and parameterized as functions of surface air humidity and snow cover. The day- and nighttime NOCET variations are strongly anticorrelated with changes in surface humidity. Furthermore, the daytime NOCET changes are positively correlated to changes in snow cover extent. The regionally averaged nighttime NOCET varies from −0.05 K tenth−1 in the wet Tropics to 1.0 K tenth−1 at midlatitudes in winter. The daytime regional NOCET ranges from −0.4 K tenth−1 in the Tropics to 0.7 K tenth−1 at midlatitudes in winter.

The authors found a general strengthening of a daytime surface cooling during the post–World War II period associated with cloud cover over the United States and China, but a minor reduction of this cooling in higher latitudes. Furthermore, since the 1970s, a prominent increase in atmospheric humidity has significantly weakened the effectiveness of the surface warming (best seen at nighttime) associated with cloud cover.

The authors apportion the spatiotemporal field of interactions between total cloud cover and surface air temperature into a bivariate relationship (described by two equations, one for daytime and one for nighttime) with surface air humidity and snow cover and two constant factors. These factors are invariant in space and time domains. It is speculated that they may represent empirical estimates of the overall cloud cover effect on the surface air temperature.

Corresponding author address: Pavel Ya. Groisman, UCAR Project Scientist, National Climatic Data Center, Federal Building, 151 Patton Ave., Asheville, NC 28801.

Email: pgroisma@ncdc.noaa.gov

Abstract

The relationship between cloud cover and near-surface air temperature and its decadal changes are examined using the hourly synoptic data for the past four to six decades from five regions of the Northern Hemisphere: Canada, the United States, the former Soviet Union, China, and tropical islands of the western Pacific. The authors define the normalized cloud cover–surface air temperature relationship, NOCET or dT/dCL, as a temperature anomaly with a unit (one-tenth) deviation of total cloud cover from its average value. Then mean monthly NOCET time series (night- and daytime, separately) are area-averaged and parameterized as functions of surface air humidity and snow cover. The day- and nighttime NOCET variations are strongly anticorrelated with changes in surface humidity. Furthermore, the daytime NOCET changes are positively correlated to changes in snow cover extent. The regionally averaged nighttime NOCET varies from −0.05 K tenth−1 in the wet Tropics to 1.0 K tenth−1 at midlatitudes in winter. The daytime regional NOCET ranges from −0.4 K tenth−1 in the Tropics to 0.7 K tenth−1 at midlatitudes in winter.

The authors found a general strengthening of a daytime surface cooling during the post–World War II period associated with cloud cover over the United States and China, but a minor reduction of this cooling in higher latitudes. Furthermore, since the 1970s, a prominent increase in atmospheric humidity has significantly weakened the effectiveness of the surface warming (best seen at nighttime) associated with cloud cover.

The authors apportion the spatiotemporal field of interactions between total cloud cover and surface air temperature into a bivariate relationship (described by two equations, one for daytime and one for nighttime) with surface air humidity and snow cover and two constant factors. These factors are invariant in space and time domains. It is speculated that they may represent empirical estimates of the overall cloud cover effect on the surface air temperature.

Corresponding author address: Pavel Ya. Groisman, UCAR Project Scientist, National Climatic Data Center, Federal Building, 151 Patton Ave., Asheville, NC 28801.

Email: pgroisma@ncdc.noaa.gov

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