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Daniela Nowak, Dominique Ruffieux, Judith L. Agnew, and Laurent Vuilleumier

Abstract

The performance of the boundary determination of fog and low stratiform cloud layers with data from a frequency-modulated continuous-wave (FMCW) cloud radar and a Vaisala ceilometer is assessed. During wintertime stable episodes, fog and low stratiform cloud layers often occur in the Swiss Plateau, where the aerological station of Payerne, Switzerland, is located. During the international COST 720 Temperature, Humidity, and Cloud (TUC) profiling experiment in winter 2003/04, both a cloud radar and a ceilometer were operated in parallel, among other profiling instruments. Human eye observations (“synops”) and temperature and humidity profiles from radiosoundings were used as reference for the validation. In addition, two case studies were chosen to demonstrate the possibilities and limitations of such ground-based remote sensing systems in determining low clouds. In these case studies the cloud boundaries determined by ceilometer and cloud radar were furthermore compared with wind profiler signal-to-noise ratio time series. Under dry conditions, cloud-base and -top detection was possible in 59% and 69% of the cases for low stratus clouds and fog situations, respectively. When cases with any form of precipitation were included, performances were reduced with detection rates of 41% and 63%, respectively. The combination of ceilometer and cloud radar has the potential for providing the base and top of a cloud layer with optimal efficiency in the continuous operational mode. The cloud-top height determination by the cloud radar was compared with cloud-top heights detected using radiosounding humidity profiles. The average height difference between the radiosounding and cloud radar determination of the cloud upper boundary is 53 ± 32 m.

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