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R. F. Cahalan, D. A. Short, and G. R. North

Abstract

A space-time statistical analysis of total outgoing infrared radiation (derived from the 10.5–12.5 μm window measurements of the NOAA operational satellites) is used to determine the gross features of day-to-day cloudiness fluctuations over the Pacific Ocean in summer and winter. Infrared fluctuations arise from the passage of cloudiness systems through a grid box as well as the creation and destruction of cloudiness in the box. Which process dominates depends upon the size of the box relative to the size, speed and persistence time of a typical cloudiness system. In most regions the statistical analysis yields advection speeds characteristic of 700 mb mean flow with spatial dependence resembling the 300 mb mean flow. Spatial scales less than 2000 km predominate, smaller scales having less persistence. Characteristic time scales are on the order of one or two days, even for a grid box spanning the entire North Pacific storm track. This result is remarkable in view of the much longer time scales commonly associated with atmospheric disturbances. Apparently many cloudiness systems are created and destroyed during the lifetime of a single disturbance.

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