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Daniel T. McCoy, Dennis L. Hartmann, and Daniel P. Grosvenor

Abstract

The sensitivity of the reflection of shortwave radiation over the Southern Ocean to the cloud properties there is estimated using observations from a suite of passive and active satellite instruments in combination with radiative transfer modeling. A composite cloud property observational data description is constructed that consistently incorporates mean cloud liquid water content, ice water content, liquid and ice particle radius information, vertical structure, vertical overlap, and spatial aggregation of cloud water as measured by optical depth versus cloud-top pressure histograms. The observational datasets used are Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) effective radius filtered to mitigate solar zenith angle bias, the Multiangle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR) cloud-top height–optical depth (CTH–OD) histogram, the liquid water path from the University of Wisconsin dataset, and ice cloud properties from CloudSat. This cloud database is used to compute reflected shortwave radiation as a function of month and location over the ocean from 40° to 60°S, which compares well with observations of reflected shortwave radiation. This calculation is then used to test the sensitivity of the seasonal variation of shortwave reflection to the observed seasonal variation of cloud properties. Effective radius decreases during the summer season, which results in an increase in reflected solar radiation of 4–8 W m−2 during summer compared to what would be reflected if the effective radius remained constant at its annual-mean value. Summertime increases in low cloud fraction similarly increase the summertime reflection of solar radiation by 9–11 W m−2. In-cloud liquid water path is less in summertime, causing the reflected solar radiation to be 1–4 W m−2 less.

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Daniel T. McCoy, Dennis L. Hartmann, and Daniel P. Grosvenor

Abstract

Climate models produce an increase in cloud optical depth in midlatitudes associated with climate warming, but the magnitude of this increase and its impact on reflected solar radiation vary from model to model. Transition from ice to liquid in midlatitude clouds is thought to be one mechanism for producing increased cloud optical depth. Here observations of cloud properties are used from a suite of remote sensing instruments to estimate the effect of conversion of ice to liquid associated with warming on reflected solar radiation in the latitude band from 40° to 60°S. The calculated increase in upwelling shortwave radiation (SW) is found to be important and of comparable magnitude to the increase in SW associated with warming-induced increases of optical depth in climate models. The region where the authors' estimate increases SW extends farther equatorward than the region where optical depth increases with warming in models. This difference is likely caused by other mechanisms at work in the models but is also sensitive to the amount of ice present in climate models and its susceptibility to warming.

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Ryan Eastman, Christopher R. Terai, Daniel P. Grosvenor, and Robert Wood

Abstract

A Lagrangian framework is developed to show the daily-scale time evolution of low clouds over the eastern subtropical oceans. An identical framework is applied to two general circulation models (GCMs): the CAM5 and UKMET and a set of satellite observations. This approach follows thousands of parcels as they advect downwind in the subtropical trade winds, comparing cloud evolution in time and space. This study tracks cloud cover, in-cloud liquid water path (CLWP), droplet concentration N d, planetary boundary layer (PBL) depth, and rain rate as clouds transition from regions with predominately stratiform clouds to regions containing mostly trade cumulus. The two models generate fewer clouds with greater N d relative to observations. Models show stronger Lagrangian cloud cover decline and greater PBL deepening when compared with observations. In comparing frequency distributions of cloud variables over time, it is seen that models generate increasing frequencies of nearly clear conditions at the expense of overcast conditions, whereas observations show transitions from overcast to cloud amounts between 50% and 90%. Lagrangian decorrelation time scales (e-folding time τ) of cloud cover and CLWP are between 11 and 19 h for models and observations, although they are a bit shorter for models. A Lagrangian framework applied here resolves and compares the time evolution of cloud systems as they adjust to environmental perturbations in models and observations. Increasing subsidence in the overlying troposphere leads to declining cloud cover, CLWP, PBL depth, and rain rates in models and observations. Modeled cloud responses to other meteorological variables are less consistent with observations, suggesting a need for continuing mechanical improvements in GCMs.

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