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Anita D. Rapp, M. Lebsock, and C. Kummerow

Abstract

How to deal with the different spatial resolutions of multifrequency satellite microwave radiometer measurements is a common problem in retrievals of cloud properties and rainfall. Data convolution and deconvolution is a common approach to resampling the measurements to a single resolution. Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI) measurements are resampled to the resolution of the 19-GHz field of view for use in a multifrequency optimal estimation retrieval algorithm of cloud liquid water path, total precipitable water, and wind speed. Resampling the TMI measurements is found to have a strong influence on retrievals of cloud liquid water path and a slight influence on wind speed. Beam-filling effects in the resampled brightness temperatures are shown to be responsible for the large differences between the retrievals using the TMI native resolution and resampled brightness temperatures. Synthetic retrievals are performed to test the sensitivity of the retrieved parameters to beam-filling effects in the resampling of each of the different channels. Beam-filling effects due to the convolution of the 85-GHz channels are shown to be the largest contributor to differences in retrieved cloud liquid water path. Differences in retrieved wind speeds are found to be a combination of effects from deconvolving the 10-GHz brightness temperatures and compensation effects due to the lower liquid water path being retrieved by the high-frequency channels. The influence of beam-filling effects on daily and monthly averages of cloud liquid water path is also explored. Results show that space–time averaging of cloud liquid water path cannot fully compensate for the beam-filling effects and should be considered when using cloud liquid water path data for validation or in climate studies.

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Anita D. Rapp, G. Elsaesser, and C. Kummerow

Abstract

The complicated interactions between cloud processes in the tropical hydrologic cycle and their responses to changes in environmental variables have been the focus of many recent investigations. Most studies that examine the response of the hydrologic cycle to temperature changes focus on deep convection and cirrus production, but recent results suggest that warm rain clouds may be more sensitive to temperature changes. These clouds are prevalent in the tropics and make considerable contributions to the radiation budget and to total tropical rainfall, as well as serving to moisten and precondition the atmosphere for deep convection. A change in the properties of these clouds in climate-change scenarios could have significant implications for the hydrologic cycle. Existing microwave and visible retrievals of warm rain cloud liquid water path (LWP) disagree over the range of sea surface temperatures (SST) observed in the tropical western Pacific Ocean. Although both retrieval methods show similar behavior for nonraining clouds, the two methods show very different warm-rain-cloud LWP responses to SST, both in magnitude and trend. This makes changes to the relationship between precipitation and cloud properties in changing temperature regimes difficult to interpret. A combined optimal estimation retrieval algorithm that takes advantage of the strengths of the different satellite measurements available on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite has been developed. Deconvolved TRMM Microwave Imager brightness temperatures are combined with cloud fraction from the Visible and Infrared Scanner and rainwater estimates from the TRMM precipitation radar to retrieve the cloud LWP in warm rain systems. This algorithm is novel in that it takes into account the water in the rain and estimates the LWP due to only the cloud water in a raining cloud, thus allowing investigation of the effects of precipitation on cloud properties.

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Kevin M. Smalley and Anita D. Rapp

Abstract

Cloud models show that precipitation is more likely to occur in larger shallow clouds and/or in an environment with more moisture, in part as a result of decreasing the impacts of entrainment mixing on the updrafts. However, the role of cloud size in shallow cloud precipitation onset from global satellite observations has mostly been examined with precipitation proxies from imagers and has not been systematically examined in active sensors, primarily because of sensitivity limitations of previous spaceborne active instruments. Here we use the more sensitive CloudSat/CALIPSO observations to identify and characterize the properties of individual contiguous shallow cumulus cloud objects. The objects are conditionally sampled by cloud-top height to determine the changes in precipitation likelihood with increasing cloud size and column water vapor. On average, raining shallow cumulus clouds are typically taller by a factor of 2 and have a greater horizontal extent than their nonraining counterparts. Results show that for a fixed cloud-top height the likelihood of precipitation increases with increasing cloud size and generally follows a double power-law distribution. This suggests that the smallest cloud objects are able to grow freely within the boundary layer but the largest cloud objects are limited by environmental moisture. This is supported by our results showing that, for a fixed cloud-top height and cloud size, the precipitation likelihood also increases as environmental moisture increases. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that larger clouds occurring in a wetter environment may be better able to protect their updrafts from entrainment effects, increasing their chances of raining.

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Kyle R. Wodzicki and Anita D. Rapp

Abstract

Many recent studies have aimed to better understand changes in the characteristics of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), including ITCZ location, width, and precipitation intensity. However, very few studies have looked at the relationship between characteristics of convection within the ITCZ and ITCZ width. The present work uses information from an ITCZ identification database and Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) precipitation feature (PF) database to quantify variations in convective characteristics across the ITCZ in the Pacific Ocean. Data are partitioned into wide and narrow ITCZ regimes to quantify differences in convection between different ITCZ regimes. Under the wide regime, convection deeper than 5 km, with areas greater than 100 km2, or stratiform rain fractions greater than 0.5 is, on average, 24%, 23%, and 12% more frequent, respectively. In the narrow regime, the signal is reversed, with average increases in the frequency of convection with heights below 5 km, areas less than 100 km2, or stratiform rain fractions less than 0.5 of 15%, 4%, and 6%, respectively. Positive and negative anomalies in columnar water vapor (CWV) and sea surface temperature (SST) across the ITCZ are observed in the wide and narrow regimes, respectively. There is also a strong positive correlation between an El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) index and ITCZ width anomalies, with wide (narrow) ITCZs occurring during warm (cold) phases of ENSO. This implies that the strengthening and weakening of the Walker circulation associated with ENSO may play a role in modulating the convective populations that contribute to the Pacific ITCZ width variations.

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Anita D. Rapp, Christian Kummerow, Wesley Berg, and Brian Griffith

Abstract

Significant controversy surrounds the adaptive infrared iris hypothesis put forth by Lindzen et al., whereby tropical anvil cirrus detrainment is hypothesized to decrease with increasing sea surface temperature (SST). This dependence would act as an iris, allowing more infrared radiation to escape into space and inhibiting changes in the surface temperature. This hypothesis assumes that increased precipitation efficiency in regions of higher sea surface temperatures will reduce cirrus detrainment. Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite measurements are used here to investigate the adaptive infrared iris hypothesis. Pixel-level Visible and Infrared Scanner (VIRS) 10.8-μm brightness temperature data and precipitation radar (PR) rain-rate data from TRMM are collocated and matched to determine individual convective cloud boundaries. Each cloudy pixel is then matched to the underlying SST. This study examines single- and multicore convective clouds separately to directly determine if a relationship exists between the size of convective clouds, their precipitation, and the underlying SSTs. In doing so, this study addresses some of the criticisms of the Lindzen et al. study by eliminating their more controversial method of relating bulk changes of cloud amount and SST across a large domain in the Tropics. The current analysis does not show any significant SST dependence of the ratio of cloud area to surface rainfall for deep convection in the tropical western and central Pacific. Results do, however, suggest that SST plays an important role in the ratio of cloud area and surface rainfall for warm rain processes. For clouds with brightness temperatures between 270 and 280 K, a net decrease in cloud area normalized by rainfall of 5% per degree SST was found.

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Trent W. Ford, Anita D. Rapp, and Steven M. Quiring

Abstract

Soil moisture is an integral part of the climate system and can drive land–atmosphere interactions through the partitioning of latent and sensible heat. Soil moisture feedback to precipitation has been documented in several regions of the world, most notably in the southern Great Plains. However, the impact of soil moisture on precipitation, particularly at short (subdaily) time scales, has not been resolved. Here, in situ soil moisture observations and satellite-based precipitation estimates are used to examine if afternoon precipitation falls preferentially over wet or dry soils in Oklahoma. Afternoon precipitation events during the warm season (May–September) in Oklahoma from 2003 and 2012 are categorized by how favorable atmospheric conditions are for convection, as well as the presence or absence of the Great Plains low-level jet. The results show afternoon precipitation falls preferentially over wet soils when the Great Plains low-level jet is absent. In contrast, precipitation falls preferentially over dry soils when the low-level jet is present. Humidity (temperature) is increased (decreased) as soil moisture increases for all conditions, and convective available potential energy prior to convection is strongest when atmospheric humidity is above normal. The results do not demonstrate a causal link between soil moisture and precipitation, but they do suggest that soil moisture feedback to precipitation could potentially manifest itself over wetter- and drier-than-normal soils, depending on the overall synoptic and dynamic conditions.

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Anita D. Rapp, Alexander G. Peterson, Oliver W. Frauenfeld, Steven M. Quiring, and E. Brendan Roark

Abstract

Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Precipitation Radar precipitation features are analyzed to understand the role of storm characteristics on the seasonal and diurnal cycles of precipitation in four distinct regions in Costa Rica. The distribution of annual rainfall is highly dependent on the stratiform precipitation, driven largely by seasonal increases in stratiform area. The monthly distribution of stratiform rain is bimodal in most regions, but the timing varies regionally and is related to several important large-scale features: the Caribbean low-level jet, the ITCZ, and the Chorro del Occidente Colombiano (CHOCO) jet. The relative importance of convective precipitation increases on the Caribbean side during wintertime cold air surges. Except for the coastal Caribbean domain, most regions show a strong diurnal cycle with an afternoon peak in convection followed by an evening increase in stratiform rain. Along the Caribbean coast, the diurnal cycle is weaker, with evidence of convection associated with the sea breeze, as well as a nocturnal increase in storms. The behavior of extreme precipitation features with rain volume in the 99th percentile is also analyzed. They are most frequent from May to November, with notable differences between features at the beginning/end of the rainy season versus those in the middle, as well as between wet and dry seasons. Convective rain exceeds stratiform in winter and midsummer extreme features, while stratiform rain is larger at the beginning and end of the wet season. Given projected changes in precipitation and extreme events in Costa Rica for future climate change scenarios, the results indicate the importance of understanding both changes in total precipitation and in the storm characteristics.

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Tong Ren, Anita D. Rapp, Shaima L. Nasiri, John R. Mecikalski, and Jason Apke

Abstract

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aerosol optical depth (AOD) retrievals from the Terra and Aqua satellites currently provide the largest satellite aerosol dataset for investigating relationships to meteorological phenomena, such as aerosol impact on electrification in deep convection. The usefulness of polar-orbiting satellite aerosol retrievals in lightning inference is examined by correlating MODIS AOD retrievals with lightning observations of the thunderstorms in the summers during 2002–14 over northern Alabama. Lightning flashes during the 1400–1700 local standard time peak period show weak but positive correlations with the MODIS AOD retrievals 2–4 h earlier. The correlation becomes stronger in particular meteorological conditions, including weak vertical wind shear and prevailing northerly winds over northern Alabama. Results show that the MODIS AOD retrievals are less useful in predicting enhanced lightning flash rate for lightning-producing storms than the forecasts of other meteorological variables that are more closely linked to the intensification of convective storms. However, when relatively weaker convective available potential energy (CAPE) is forecast, the probability of enhanced lightning flash rate increases in a more polluted environment, making the knowledge of aerosols more useful in lightning inference in such CAPE regimes. The aerosol enhancement of lightning, if present, may be associated with enhanced convergence in the boundary layer and secondary convection.

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Xiquan Dong, Gerald G. Mace, Patrick Minnis, William L. Smith Jr.,, Michael Poellot, Roger T. Marchand, and Anita D. Rapp

Abstract

Low-level stratus cloud microphysical properties derived from surface and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) data during the March 2000 cloud intensive observational period (IOP) at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program Southern Great Plains (SGP) site are compared with aircraft in situ measurements. For the surface retrievals, the cloud droplet effective radius and optical depth are retrieved from a δ2-stream radiative transfer model with the input of ground-based measurements, and the cloud liquid water path (LWP) is retrieved from ground-based microwave-radiometer-measured brightness temperature. The satellite results, retrieved from GOES visible, solar-infrared, and infrared radiances, are averaged in a 0.5° × 0.5° box centered on the ARM SGP site. The forward scattering spectrometer probe (FSSP) on the University of North Dakota Citation aircraft provided in situ measurements of the cloud microphysical properties. During the IOP, four low-level stratus cases were intensively observed by the ground- and satellite-based remote sensors and aircraft in situ instruments resulting in a total of 10 h of simultaneous data from the three platforms. In spite of the large differences in temporal and spatial resolution between surface, GOES, and aircraft, the surface retrievals have excellent agreement with the aircraft data overall for the entire 10-h period, and the GOES results agree reasonably well with the surface and aircraft data and have similar trends and magnitudes except for the GOES-derived effective radii, which are typically larger than the surface- and aircraft-derived values. The means and standard deviations of the differences between the surface and aircraft effective radius, LWP, and optical depth are −4% ± 20.1%, −1% ± 31.2%, and 8% ± 29.3%, respectively; while their correlation coefficients are 0.78, 0.92, and 0.89, respectively, during the 10-h period. The differences and correlations between the GOES-8 and aircraft results are of a similar magnitude, except for the droplet sizes. The averaged GOES-derived effective radius is 23% or 1.8 μm greater than the corresponding aircraft values, resulting in a much smaller correlation coefficient of 0.18. Additional surface–satellite datasets were analyzed for time periods when the aircraft was unavailable. When these additional results are combined with the retrievals from the four in situ cases, the means and standard deviations of the differences between the satellite-derived cloud droplet effective radius, LWP, and optical depth and their surface-based counterparts are 16% ± 31.2%, 4% ± 31.6%, and −6% ± 39.9%, respectively. The corresponding correlation coefficients are 0.24, 0.88, and 0.73. The frequency distributions of the two datasets are very similar indicating that the satellite retrieval method should be able to produce reliable statistics of boundary layer cloud properties for use in climate and cloud process models.

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