Relationship between Clouds and Sea Surface Temperatures in the Western Tropical Pacific

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  • 1 Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
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Abstract

Analysis of four years of earth radiation budget, cloud, and sea surface temperature data confirms that cloud parameters change dramatically when and where sea surface temperatures increase above ∼300 K. These results are based upon monthly mean values within 2.5°×2.5° grid points over the “warm pool” region of the western tropical Pacific. The question of whether sea surface temperatures are influenced, in turn, by the radiative effects of thee clouds (Ramanathan and Collins) is less clear. Such a feedback, if it exists, is weak. The reason why clouds might have so little influence, despite large changes in their longwave and shortwave radiative effects, might be that the sea surface responds to both the longwave heating and the shortwave cooling effects of clouds, and the two effects nearly cancel. There are strong correlations between the rate of change of sea surface temperature and any of the radiation budget parameters that are highly correlated with the incident solar flux-implying that season and latitude are the critical factors determining sea surface temperatures. With the seasonal or both seasonal and latitudinal variations removed, the rate of change of sea surface temperature shows no correlation with cloud-related parameters in the western tropical Pacific.

Abstract

Analysis of four years of earth radiation budget, cloud, and sea surface temperature data confirms that cloud parameters change dramatically when and where sea surface temperatures increase above ∼300 K. These results are based upon monthly mean values within 2.5°×2.5° grid points over the “warm pool” region of the western tropical Pacific. The question of whether sea surface temperatures are influenced, in turn, by the radiative effects of thee clouds (Ramanathan and Collins) is less clear. Such a feedback, if it exists, is weak. The reason why clouds might have so little influence, despite large changes in their longwave and shortwave radiative effects, might be that the sea surface responds to both the longwave heating and the shortwave cooling effects of clouds, and the two effects nearly cancel. There are strong correlations between the rate of change of sea surface temperature and any of the radiation budget parameters that are highly correlated with the incident solar flux-implying that season and latitude are the critical factors determining sea surface temperatures. With the seasonal or both seasonal and latitudinal variations removed, the rate of change of sea surface temperature shows no correlation with cloud-related parameters in the western tropical Pacific.

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