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Subdiurnal Stratocumulus Cloud Fraction Variability and Sensitivity to Precipitation

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  • 1 North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington
  • | 2 North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
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Abstract

This paper presents an analysis of subtropical marine stratocumulus cloud fraction variability using a 30-min and 3° × 3° cloud fraction dataset from 2003 to 2010. Each of the three subtropical marine stratocumulus regions has distinct diurnal characteristics, but the southeast (SE) Pacific and SE Atlantic are more similar to each other than to the northeast (NE) Pacific. The amplitude and season-to-season diurnal cycle variations are larger in the Southern Hemisphere regions than in the NE Pacific. Net overnight changes in cloud fraction on 3° × 3° scales are either positive or neutral >77% of the time in the NE Pacific and >88% of the time in the SE Pacific and SE Atlantic. Cloud fraction often increases to 100% by dawn when cloud fraction at dusk is >30%. In the SE Pacific and SE Atlantic, a typical decrease in cloud area (median ≤ −5.7 × 105 km2) during the day is equivalent to 25% or more of the annual-mean cloud deck area. Time series for 3° × 3° areas where cloud fraction was ≥90% sometime overnight and <60% at dawn, such as would result from nocturnal formation of pockets of open cells (POCs), only occur 1.5%, 1.6%, and 3.3% of the time in the SE Pacific, SE Atlantic, and NE Pacific, respectively. Comparison of cloud fraction changes to ship-based radar and satellite-derived precipitation intensity and area measurements shows a lack of sensitivity of cloud fraction to drizzle on time scales of 1–3 h and spatial scales of 100–300 km.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Casey D. Burleyson, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, P.O. Box 999/MS K9-24, Richland, WA 99352. E-mail: casey.burleyson@pnnl.gov

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website.

Abstract

This paper presents an analysis of subtropical marine stratocumulus cloud fraction variability using a 30-min and 3° × 3° cloud fraction dataset from 2003 to 2010. Each of the three subtropical marine stratocumulus regions has distinct diurnal characteristics, but the southeast (SE) Pacific and SE Atlantic are more similar to each other than to the northeast (NE) Pacific. The amplitude and season-to-season diurnal cycle variations are larger in the Southern Hemisphere regions than in the NE Pacific. Net overnight changes in cloud fraction on 3° × 3° scales are either positive or neutral >77% of the time in the NE Pacific and >88% of the time in the SE Pacific and SE Atlantic. Cloud fraction often increases to 100% by dawn when cloud fraction at dusk is >30%. In the SE Pacific and SE Atlantic, a typical decrease in cloud area (median ≤ −5.7 × 105 km2) during the day is equivalent to 25% or more of the annual-mean cloud deck area. Time series for 3° × 3° areas where cloud fraction was ≥90% sometime overnight and <60% at dawn, such as would result from nocturnal formation of pockets of open cells (POCs), only occur 1.5%, 1.6%, and 3.3% of the time in the SE Pacific, SE Atlantic, and NE Pacific, respectively. Comparison of cloud fraction changes to ship-based radar and satellite-derived precipitation intensity and area measurements shows a lack of sensitivity of cloud fraction to drizzle on time scales of 1–3 h and spatial scales of 100–300 km.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Casey D. Burleyson, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, P.O. Box 999/MS K9-24, Richland, WA 99352. E-mail: casey.burleyson@pnnl.gov

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website.

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