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A 10-Year Climatology of Tropical Radiative Heating and Its Vertical Structure from TRMM Observations

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  • 1 Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado
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Abstract

This paper outlines recent advances in estimating atmospheric radiative heating rate profiles from the sensors aboard the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM). The approach employs a deterministic framework in which four distinct retrievals of clouds, precipitation, and other atmospheric and surface properties are combined to form input to a broadband radiative transfer model that simulates profiles of upwelling and downwelling longwave and shortwave radiative fluxes in the atmosphere. Monthly, 5° top of the atmosphere outgoing longwave and shortwave flux estimates agree with corresponding observations from the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) to within 7 W m−2 and 3%, respectively, suggesting that the resulting products can be thought of as extending the eight-month CERES dataset to cover the full lifetime of TRMM.

The analysis of a decade of TRMM data provides a baseline climatology of the vertical structure of atmospheric radiative heating in today’s climate and an estimate of the magnitude of its response to environmental forcings on weekly to interannual time scales. In addition to illustrating the scope and properties of the dataset, the results highlight the strong influence of clouds, water vapor, and large-scale dynamics on regional radiation budgets and the vertical structure of radiative heating in the tropical and subtropical atmospheres. The combination of the radiative heating rate product described here, with profiles of latent heating that are now also being generated from TRMM sensors, provides a unique opportunity to develop large-scale estimates of vertically resolved atmospheric diabatic heating using satellite observations.

Corresponding author address: Tristan S. L’Ecuyer, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523. Email: tristan@atmos.colostate.edu

This article included in the TRMM Diabatic Heating special collection.

Abstract

This paper outlines recent advances in estimating atmospheric radiative heating rate profiles from the sensors aboard the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM). The approach employs a deterministic framework in which four distinct retrievals of clouds, precipitation, and other atmospheric and surface properties are combined to form input to a broadband radiative transfer model that simulates profiles of upwelling and downwelling longwave and shortwave radiative fluxes in the atmosphere. Monthly, 5° top of the atmosphere outgoing longwave and shortwave flux estimates agree with corresponding observations from the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) to within 7 W m−2 and 3%, respectively, suggesting that the resulting products can be thought of as extending the eight-month CERES dataset to cover the full lifetime of TRMM.

The analysis of a decade of TRMM data provides a baseline climatology of the vertical structure of atmospheric radiative heating in today’s climate and an estimate of the magnitude of its response to environmental forcings on weekly to interannual time scales. In addition to illustrating the scope and properties of the dataset, the results highlight the strong influence of clouds, water vapor, and large-scale dynamics on regional radiation budgets and the vertical structure of radiative heating in the tropical and subtropical atmospheres. The combination of the radiative heating rate product described here, with profiles of latent heating that are now also being generated from TRMM sensors, provides a unique opportunity to develop large-scale estimates of vertically resolved atmospheric diabatic heating using satellite observations.

Corresponding author address: Tristan S. L’Ecuyer, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523. Email: tristan@atmos.colostate.edu

This article included in the TRMM Diabatic Heating special collection.

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