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  • Author or Editor: William L. Smith Jr. x
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Casey J. Wall
,
Dennis L. Hartmann
,
Mandana M. Thieman
,
William L. Smith Jr.
, and
Patrick Minnis

Abstract

Observations from a geostationary satellite are used to study the life cycle of mesoscale convective systems (MCS), their associated anvil clouds, and their effects on the radiation balance over the warm pool of the tropical western Pacific Ocean. In their developing stages, MCS primarily consist of clouds that are optically thick and have a negative net cloud radiative effect (CRE). As MCS age, ice crystals in the anvil become larger, the cloud top lowers somewhat, and cloud radiative effects decrease in magnitude. Shading from anvils causes cool anomalies in the underlying sea surface temperature (SST) of up to −0.6°C. MCS often occur in clusters that are embedded within large westward-propagating disturbances, and therefore shading from anvils can cool SSTs over regions spanning hundreds of kilometers. Triggering of convection is more likely to follow a warm SST anomaly than a cold SST anomaly on a time scale of several days. This information is used to evaluate hypotheses for why, over the warm pool, the average shortwave and longwave CRE are individually large but nearly cancel. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that the cancellation in CRE is caused by feedbacks among cloud albedo, large-scale circulation, and SST.

Full access
Casey J. Wall
,
Joel R. Norris
,
Blaž Gasparini
,
William L. Smith Jr.
,
Mandana M. Thieman
, and
Odran Sourdeval

Abstract

A variety of satellite and ground-based observations are used to study how diurnal variations of cloud radiative heating affect the life cycle of anvil clouds over the tropical western Pacific Ocean. High clouds thicker than 2 km experience longwave heating at cloud base, longwave cooling at cloud top, and shortwave heating at cloud top. The shortwave and longwave effects have similar magnitudes during midday, but only the longwave effect is present at night, so high clouds experience a substantial diurnal cycle of radiative heating. Furthermore, anvil clouds are more persistent or laterally expansive during daytime. This cannot be explained by variations of convective intensity or geographic patterns of convection, suggesting that shortwave heating causes anvil clouds to persist longer or spread over a larger area. It is then investigated if shortwave heating modifies anvil development by altering turbulence in the cloud. According to one theory, radiative heating drives turbulent overturning within anvil clouds that can be sufficiently vigorous to cause ice nucleation in the updrafts, thereby extending the cloud lifetime. High-frequency air motion and ice-crystal number concentration are shown to be inversely related near cloud top, however. This suggests that turbulence depletes or disperses ice crystals at a faster rate than it nucleates them, so another mechanism must cause the diurnal variation of anvil clouds. It is hypothesized that radiative heating affects anvil development primarily by inducing a mesoscale circulation that offsets gravitational settling of cloud particles.

Open access
Norman G. Loeb
,
Hailan Wang
,
Fred G. Rose
,
Seiji Kato
,
William L. Smith Jr
, and
Sunny Sun-Mack

Abstract

A diagnostic tool for determining surface and atmospheric contributions to interannual variations in top-of-atmosphere (TOA) reflected shortwave (SW) and net downward SW surface radiative fluxes is introduced. The method requires only upward and downward radiative fluxes at the TOA and surface as input and therefore can readily be applied to both satellite-derived and model-generated radiative fluxes. Observations from the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) Energy Balanced and Filled (EBAF) Edition 4.0 product show that 81% of the monthly variability in global mean reflected SW TOA flux anomalies is associated with atmospheric variations (mainly clouds), 6% is from surface variations, and 13% is from atmosphere–surface covariability. Over the Arctic Ocean, most of the variability in both reflected SW TOA flux and net downward SW surface flux anomalies is explained by variations in sea ice and cloud fraction alone (r 2 = 0.94). Compared to CERES, variability in two reanalyses—the ECMWF interim reanalysis (ERA-Interim) and NASA’s Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2)—show large differences in the regional distribution of variance for both the atmospheric and surface contributions to anomalies in net downward SW surface flux. For MERRA-2 the atmospheric contribution is 17% too large compared to CERES while ERA-Interim underestimates the variance by 15%. The difference is mainly due to how cloud variations are represented in the reanalyses. The overall surface contribution in both ERA-Interim and MERRA-2 is smaller than CERES EBAF by 15% for ERA-Interim and 58% for MERRA-2, highlighting limitations of the reanalyses in representing surface albedo variations and their influence on SW radiative fluxes.

Open access
Norman G. Loeb
,
Ping Yang
,
Fred G. Rose
,
Gang Hong
,
Sunny Sun-Mack
,
Patrick Minnis
,
Seiji Kato
,
Seung-Hee Ham
,
William L. Smith Jr.
,
Souichiro Hioki
, and
Guanglin Tang

Abstract

Ice cloud particles exhibit a range of shapes and sizes affecting a cloud’s single-scattering properties. Because they cannot be inferred from passive visible/infrared imager measurements, assumptions about the bulk single-scattering properties of ice clouds are fundamental to satellite cloud retrievals and broadband radiative flux calculations. To examine the sensitivity to ice particle model assumptions, three sets of models are used in satellite imager retrievals of ice cloud fraction, thermodynamic phase, optical depth, effective height, and particle size, and in top-of-atmosphere (TOA) and surface broadband radiative flux calculations. The three ice particle models include smooth hexagonal ice columns (SMOOTH), roughened hexagonal ice columns, and a two-habit model (THM) comprising an ensemble of hexagonal columns and 20-element aggregates. While the choice of ice particle model has a negligible impact on daytime cloud fraction and thermodynamic phase, the global mean ice cloud optical depth retrieved from THM is smaller than from SMOOTH by 2.3 (28%), and the regional root-mean-square difference (RMSD) is 2.8 (32%). Effective radii derived from THM are 3.9 μm (16%) smaller than SMOOTH values and the RMSD is 5.2 μm (21%). In contrast, the regional RMSD in TOA and surface flux between THM and SMOOTH is only 1% in the shortwave and 0.3% in the longwave when a consistent ice particle model is assumed in the cloud property retrievals and forward radiative transfer model calculations. Consequently, radiative fluxes derived using a consistent ice particle model assumption throughout provide a more robust reference for climate model evaluation compared to ice cloud property retrievals.

Open access