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Continuous Evaluation of Cloud Profiles in Seven Operational Models Using Ground-Based Observations

A. J. Illingworth, R. J. Hogan, E.J. O'Connor, D. Bouniol, M. E. Brooks, J. Delanoé, D. P. Donovan, J. D. Eastment, N. Gaussiat, J. W. F. Goddard, M. Haeffelin, H. Klein Baltink, O. A. Krasnov, J. Pelon, J.-M. Piriou, A. Protat, H. W. J. Russchenberg, A. Seifert, A. M. Tompkins, G.-J. van Zadelhoff, F. Vinit, U. Willén, D. R. Wilson, and C. L. Wrench

The Cloudnet project aims to provide a systematic evaluation of clouds in forecast and climate models by comparing the model output with continuous ground-based observations of the vertical profiles of cloud properties. In the models, the properties of clouds are simplified and expressed in terms of the fraction of the model grid box, which is filled with cloud, together with the liquid and ice water content of the clouds. These models must get the clouds right if they are to correctly represent both their radiative properties and their key role in the production of precipitation, but there are few observations of the vertical profiles of the cloud properties that show whether or not they are successful. Cloud profiles derived from cloud radars, ceilometers, and dual-frequency microwave radiometers operated at three sites in France, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom for several years have been compared with the clouds in seven European models. The advantage of this continuous appraisal is that the feedback on how new versions of models are performing is provided in quasi-real time, as opposed to the much longer time scale needed for in-depth analysis of complex field studies. Here, two occasions are identified when the introduction of new versions of the ECMWF and Météo-France models leads to an immediate improvement in the representation of the clouds and also provides statistics on the performance of the seven models. The Cloudnet analysis scheme is currently being expanded to include sites outside Europe and further operational forecasting and climate models.

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A. J. Illingworth, H. W. Barker, A. Beljaars, M. Ceccaldi, H. Chepfer, N. Clerbaux, J. Cole, J. Delanoë, C. Domenech, D. P. Donovan, S. Fukuda, M. Hirakata, R. J. Hogan, A. Huenerbein, P. Kollias, T. Kubota, T. Nakajima, T. Y. Nakajima, T. Nishizawa, Y. Ohno, H. Okamoto, R. Oki, K. Sato, M. Satoh, M. W. Shephard, A. Velázquez-Blázquez, U. Wandinger, T. Wehr, and G.-J. van Zadelhoff


The collective representation within global models of aerosol, cloud, precipitation, and their radiative properties remains unsatisfactory. They constitute the largest source of uncertainty in predictions of climatic change and hamper the ability of numerical weather prediction models to forecast high-impact weather events. The joint European Space Agency (ESA)–Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Earth Clouds, Aerosol and Radiation Explorer (EarthCARE) satellite mission, scheduled for launch in 2018, will help to resolve these weaknesses by providing global profiles of cloud, aerosol, precipitation, and associated radiative properties inferred from a combination of measurements made by its collocated active and passive sensors. EarthCARE will improve our understanding of cloud and aerosol processes by extending the invaluable dataset acquired by the A-Train satellites CloudSat, Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO), and Aqua. Specifically, EarthCARE’s cloud profiling radar, with 7 dB more sensitivity than CloudSat, will detect more thin clouds and its Doppler capability will provide novel information on convection, precipitating ice particle, and raindrop fall speeds. EarthCARE’s 355-nm high-spectral-resolution lidar will measure directly and accurately cloud and aerosol extinction and optical depth. Combining this with backscatter and polarization information should lead to an unprecedented ability to identify aerosol type. The multispectral imager will provide a context for, and the ability to construct, the cloud and aerosol distribution in 3D domains around the narrow 2D retrieved cross section. The consistency of the retrievals will be assessed to within a target of ±10 W m–2 on the (10 km)2 scale by comparing the multiview broadband radiometer observations to the top-of-atmosphere fluxes estimated by 3D radiative transfer models acting on retrieved 3D domains.

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