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  • Author or Editor: Francesca Di Giuseppe x
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Adrian M. Tompkins
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Francesca Di Giuseppe

Abstract

Shortwave radiative transfer depends on the cloud field geometry as viewed from the direction of the sun. To date, the radiation schemes of large-scale models only consider a zenith view of the cloud field, and the apparent change in the cloud geometry with decreasing solar zenith angle is neglected. A simple extension to an existing cloud overlap scheme is suggested to account for this for the first time. It is based on the assumption that at low sun angles, the overlap between cloud elements is random for an unscattered photon. Using cloud scenes derived from radar retrievals at two European sites, it is shown that the increase of the apparent cloud cover with a descending sun is reproduced very well with the new scheme. Associated with this, there is a marked reduction in the mean radiative biases averaged across all solar zenith angles with respect to benchmark calculations. The scheme is implemented into the ECMWF global forecast model using imposed sea surface temperatures, and while the impact on the radiative statistics is significant, the feedback on the large-scale dynamics is minimal.

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Francesca Di Giuseppe
and
Adrian M. Tompkins

Abstract

Six months of CloudSat and CALIPSO observations have been divided into over 8 million cloud scenes and collocated with ECMWF wind analyses to identify an empirical relationship between cloud overlap and wind shear for use in atmospheric models. For vertically continuous cloudy layers, cloud decorrelates from maximum toward random overlap as the layer separation distance increases, and the authors demonstrate a systematic impact of wind shear on the resulting decorrelation length scale. As expected, cloud decorrelates over smaller distances as wind shear increases. A simple, empirical linear fit parameterization is suggested that is straightforward to add to existing radiation schemes, although it is shown that the parameters are quite sensitive to the processing details of the cloud mask data and also to the fitting method used. The wind shear–overlap dependency is implemented in the radiation scheme of the ECMWF Integrated Forecast System. It has a similar-magnitude impact on the radiative budget as that of switching from a fixed decorrelation length scale to the latitude-dependent length scale presently used in the operational model, altering the zonal-mean, top-of-atmosphere, equator-to-midlatitude gradient of shortwave radiation by approximately 2 W m−2.

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Adrian M. Tompkins
and
Francesca Di Giuseppe

Abstract

Observational studies have shown that the vertical overlap of cloudy layers separated by clear sky can exceed that of the random overlap assumption, suggesting a tendency toward minimum overlap. In addition, the rate of decorrelation of vertically continuous clouds with increasing layer separation is sensitive to the horizontal scale of the cloud scenes used. The authors give a heuristic argument that these phenomena result from data truncation, where overcast or single cloud layers are removed from the analysis. This occurs more frequently as the cloud sampling scale falls progressively below the typical cloud system scale. The postulate is supported by sampling artificial cyclic and subsequently more realistic fractal cloud scenes at various length scales. The fractal clouds indicate that the degree of minimal overlap diagnosed in previous studies for discontinuous clouds could result from sampling randomly overlapped clouds at spatial scales that are 30%–80% of the cloud system scale. Removing scenes with cloud cover exceeding 50% from the analysis reduces the impact of data truncation, with discontinuous clouds not minimally overlapped and the decorrelation of continuous clouds less sensitive to the sampling scale. Using CloudSatCALIPSO data, a decorrelation length scale of approximately 4.0 km is found. In light of these results, the previously documented dependence of overlap decorrelation length scale on latitude is not entirely a physical phenomenon but can be reinterpreted as resulting from sampling cloud systems that increase significantly in size from the tropics to midlatitudes using a fixed sampling scale.

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