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Spectral Signatures of Earth’s Climate Variability over 5 Years from IASI

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  • 1 Space and Atmospheric Physics Group, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom
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Abstract

Interannual variability in spectrally resolved longwave radiances is quantified at a variety of spatial scales using 5 yr of IASI observations. Maximum variability is seen at the smallest scales investigated (10° zonal means) at northern and southern high latitudes across the center of the 15-µm CO2 band. As the spatial scale increases, the overall magnitude of interannual variability is reduced across the spectrum and the spectral shape of the variability changes. In spectral regions sensitive to conditions in the upper troposphere, the effect of increasing spatial scale is relatively small and at the global scale these parts of the spectrum show the greatest year-to-year variability. Conversely, the atmospheric window (8–12 µm), which is sensitive to variations in surface temperature and cloud, shows a marked reduction in interannual variability with increasing spatial scale. Over the 5 yr studied, at global scales the standard deviation in annual mean brightness temperature is less than 0.17 K across the spectrum, dropping to less than 0.05 K across the window. Spectrally integrating the IASI measurements to create pseudobroadband and window channels indicates a variation about the mean that is higher for the broadband channel than for the window channel at the global and quasi-global scales and over the Southern Hemisphere. These findings are in agreement with observations from CERES Terra over the same period and imply that at the largest spatial scales, over the period considered here, fluctuations in mid- to upper-tropospheric temperatures and water vapor, and not cloud or surface temperature, play the dominant role in determining the level of interannual variability in all-sky outgoing longwave radiation.

Corresponding author address: Helen Brindley, Space and Atmospheric Physics Group, Imperial College London, Blackett Laboratory, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2AZ, United Kingdom. E-mail: h.brindley@imperial.ac.uk

Abstract

Interannual variability in spectrally resolved longwave radiances is quantified at a variety of spatial scales using 5 yr of IASI observations. Maximum variability is seen at the smallest scales investigated (10° zonal means) at northern and southern high latitudes across the center of the 15-µm CO2 band. As the spatial scale increases, the overall magnitude of interannual variability is reduced across the spectrum and the spectral shape of the variability changes. In spectral regions sensitive to conditions in the upper troposphere, the effect of increasing spatial scale is relatively small and at the global scale these parts of the spectrum show the greatest year-to-year variability. Conversely, the atmospheric window (8–12 µm), which is sensitive to variations in surface temperature and cloud, shows a marked reduction in interannual variability with increasing spatial scale. Over the 5 yr studied, at global scales the standard deviation in annual mean brightness temperature is less than 0.17 K across the spectrum, dropping to less than 0.05 K across the window. Spectrally integrating the IASI measurements to create pseudobroadband and window channels indicates a variation about the mean that is higher for the broadband channel than for the window channel at the global and quasi-global scales and over the Southern Hemisphere. These findings are in agreement with observations from CERES Terra over the same period and imply that at the largest spatial scales, over the period considered here, fluctuations in mid- to upper-tropospheric temperatures and water vapor, and not cloud or surface temperature, play the dominant role in determining the level of interannual variability in all-sky outgoing longwave radiation.

Corresponding author address: Helen Brindley, Space and Atmospheric Physics Group, Imperial College London, Blackett Laboratory, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2AZ, United Kingdom. E-mail: h.brindley@imperial.ac.uk
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