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  • Author or Editor: S. P. de Szoeke x
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David B. Mechem, Carly S. Wittman, Matthew A. Miller, Sandra E. Yuter, and Simon P. de Szoeke


Marine boundary layer clouds are modified by processes at different spatial and temporal scales. To isolate the processes governing aerosol–cloud–precipitation interactions, multiday synoptic variability of the environment must be accounted for. Information on the location of low clouds relative to the ridge–trough pattern gives insight into how cloud properties vary as a function of environmental subsidence and stability. The technique of self-organizing maps (SOMs) is employed to objectively classify the 500-hPa geopotential height patterns for 33 years of reanalysis fields (ERA-Interim) into pretrough, trough, posttrough, ridge, and zonal-flow categories. The SOM technique is applied to a region of prevalent marine low cloudiness over the eastern North Atlantic Ocean that is centered on the Azores island chain, the location of a long-term U.S. Department of Energy observation site. The Azores consistently lie in an area of substantial variability in synoptic configuration, thermodynamic environment, and cloud properties. The SOM method was run in two ways to emphasize multiday and seasonal variability separately. Over and near the Azores, there is an east-to-west sloshing back and forth of the western edge of marine low clouds associated with different synoptic states. The different synoptic states also exhibit substantial north–south variability in the position of high clouds. For any given month of the year, there is large year-to-year variability in the occurrence of different synoptic states. Hence, estimating the climatological behavior of clouds from short-term field campaigns has large uncertainties. This SOM approach is a robust method that is broadly applicable to characterizing synoptic regimes for any location.

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