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Joonsuk Lee, Ping Yang, Andrew E. Dessler, Bo-Cai Gao, and Steven Platnick


To understand the radiative impact of tropical thin cirrus clouds, the frequency of occurrence and optical depths of these clouds have been derived. “Thin” cirrus clouds are defined here as being those that are not detected by the operational Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) cloud mask, corresponding to an optical depth value of approximately 0.3 or smaller, but that are detectable in terms of the cirrus reflectance product based on the MODIS 1.375-μm channel. With such a definition, thin cirrus clouds were present in more than 40% of the pixels flagged as “clear sky” by the operational MODIS cloud mask algorithm. It is shown that these thin cirrus clouds are frequently observed in deep convective regions in the western Pacific. Thin cirrus optical depths were derived from the cirrus reflectance product. Regions of significant cloud fraction and large optical depths were observed in the Northern Hemisphere during the boreal spring and summer and moved southward during the boreal autumn and winter. The radiative effects of tropical thin cirrus clouds were studied on the basis of the retrieved cirrus optical depths, the atmospheric profiles derived from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) observations, and a radiative transfer model in conjunction with a parameterization of ice cloud spectral optical properties. To understand how these clouds regulate the radiation field in the atmosphere, the instantaneous net fluxes at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) and at the surface were calculated. The present study shows positive and negative net forcings at the TOA and at the surface, respectively. The positive (negative) net forcing at the TOA (surface) is due to the dominance of longwave (shortwave) forcing. Both the TOA and surface forcings are in a range of 0–20 W m−2, depending on the optical depths of thin cirrus clouds.

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Jonathan P. Taylor, Martin D. Glew, James A. Coakley Jr., William R. Tahnk, Steven Platnick, Peter V. Hobbs, and Ronald J. Ferek


The influence of anthropogenic aerosols, in the form of ship exhaust effluent, on the microphysics and radiative properties of marine stratocumulus is studied using data gathered from the U.K. Met. Office C-130 and the University of Washington C-131A aircraft during the Monterey Area Ship Track (MAST) experiment in 1994. During the period of MAST, stratocumulus clouds were studied during 11 flights and a wide range of levels of background pollution was observed. The impact of the aerosol emitted from the ships was found to be very dependent on the background cloud microphysical conditions. In clouds of continental influence, the susceptibility of the cloud to further aerosol emissions was low, with a correspondingly weak microphysics and radiation signature in the ship tracks. In clean clouds, changes in droplet concentration of a factor of 2, and reductions in droplet size of up to 50%, were measured. These changes in the microphysics had significant impacts on the cloud radiative forcing. Furthermore, as a result of the cloud droplet size being reduced, in some cases the drizzle was suppressed in the clean clouds, resulting in an increase in liquid water path in the polluted ship track environment. The impact of this combined change in liquid water path and droplet radius was to increase the cloud radiative forcing by up to a factor of 4.

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