Visible and infrared satellite images, in combination with detailed landscape information, suggest an appreciable effect of spatial variations in landscape on cumulus cloud formation over relatively flat terrain. These effects are noticeable when forcing from the atmosphere is weak, e.g., when fronts or other disturbances are absent. A case is presented in which clouds are observed to form first over a mesoscale-size area (100 × 300 km) of harvested wheat in Oklahoma, where the ground temperature is warmer than adjoining areas dominated by growing vegetation. In addition, clouds are suppressed over relatively long bands downwind of small manmade lakes and areas characterized by heavy tree cover. The observed variability of cloud relative to landscape type is compared with that simulated with a one-dimensional boundary-layer model. Clouds form earliest over regions characterized by high, sensible heat flux, and are suppressed over regions characterized by high, latent heat flux during relatively dry atmospheric conditions. This observation has significance in gaining understanding of the feedback mechanisms of land modification on climate, as well as understanding relatively short-range weather forecasting.

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Footnotes

* National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman OK 73069

Department of Geography, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078

** Severe Storms Branch, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771

††Center for Applications in Remote Sensing, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078