The aim of the Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment Cloud System Study (GCSS) is to promote the description and understanding of key cloud system processes, with the aim of developing and improving the representation of cloud processes in general circulation models. The GCSS Science Panel identified a need to document important observational gaps in the structure of cloud systems inhibiting the development of cloud-resolving models as a tool for parameterizing cloud systems in general circulation models.

The nature of precipitating layer clouds around the world is not well documented. To better quantify this, a synthesis of observations of these types of clouds made during field experiments conducted around the world has been developed. The synthesis draws on observations made in Australia, Canada, China, Israel, Japan, Russia, the Ukraine, the United States, and several European countries.

The survey examines the global variation of the horizontal scales of cloud and precipitation, embedded phenomena such as rainbands, conveyor belt characteristics, ice crystal and water droplet concentrations, and raindrop and ice crystal size distributions.

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