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Derek J. Posselt, Andrew R. Jongeward, Chuan-Yuan Hsu, and Gerald L. Potter

Abstract

The Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Application (MERRA) is a reanalysis designed to produce an improved representation of the Earth’s hydrologic cycle. This study examines the representation of deep convective clouds in MERRA, comparing analyzed liquid and ice clouds with deep convective cloud objects observed by instruments on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite. Results show that MERRA contains deep convective cloud in 98.1% of the observed cases. MERRA-derived probability density functions (PDFs) of cloud properties have a similar form as the observed PDFs and exhibit a similar trend with changes in object size. Total water path, optical depth, and outgoing shortwave radiation (OSR) in MERRA are found to match the cloud object observations quite well; however, there appears to be a bias toward higher-than-observed cloud tops in the MERRA. The reanalysis fits the observations most closely for the largest class of convective systems, with performance generally decreasing with a transition to smaller convective systems. Comparisons of simulated total water path, optical depth, and OSR are found to be highly sensitive to the assumed subgrid distribution of condensate and indicate the need for caution when interpreting model-data comparisons that require disaggregation of grid-scale cloud to satellite pixel scales.

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