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Jackson Tan
Lazaros Oreopoulos


The distribution of mesoscale precipitation exhibits diverse patterns: precipitation can be intense but sporadic, or it can be light but widespread. This range of behaviors is a reflection of the different weather systems in the global atmosphere. Using MODIS global cloud regimes as proxies for different atmospheric systems, this study investigates the subgrid precipitation properties within these systems. Taking advantage of the high resolution of Integrated Multisatellite Retrievals for GPM (IMERG; GPM is the Global Precipitation Measurement mission), precipitation values at 0.1° are composited with each cloud regime at 1° grid cells to characterize the regime’s spatial subgrid precipitation properties. The results reveal the diversity of the subgrid precipitation behavior of the atmospheric systems. Organized convection is associated with the highest grid-mean precipitation rates and precipitating fraction, although on average only half the grid is precipitating and there is substantial variability between different occurrences. Summer extratropical storms have the next highest precipitation, driven mainly by moderate precipitation rates over large areas. These systems produce more precipitation than isolated convective systems, for which the lower precipitating fractions balance out the high intensities. Most systems produce heavier precipitation in the afternoon than in the morning. The grid-mean precipitation rate is also found to scale with the fraction of precipitation within the grid in a faster-than-linear relationship for most systems. This study elucidates the precipitation properties within cloud regimes, thus advancing our understanding of the precipitation structures of these atmospheric systems.

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Jackson Tan
Christian Jakob
, and
Todd P. Lane


The use of cloud regimes in identifying tropical convection and the associated large-scale atmospheric properties is investigated. The regimes are derived by applying cluster analysis to satellite retrievals of daytime-averaged frequency distributions of cloud-top pressure and optical thickness within grids of 280 km by 280 km resolution from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project between 1983 and 2008. An investigation of atmospheric state variables as a function of cloud regime reveals that the regimes are useful indicators of the archetypal states of the tropical atmosphere ranging from a strongly convecting regime with large stratiform cloudiness to strongly suppressed conditions showing a large coverage with stratocumulus clouds. The convectively active regimes are shown to be moist and unstable with large-scale ascending motion, while convectively suppressed regimes are dry and stable with large-scale descending winds. Importantly, the cloud regimes also represent several transitional states. In particular, the cloud regime approach allows for the identification of the “building blocks” of tropical convection, namely, the regimes dominated by stratiform, deep, and congestus convection. The availability of the daily distribution of these building blocks for more than 20 years opens new avenues for the diagnosis of convective behavior as well as the evaluation of the representation of convection in global and regional models.

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