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Jasmine Rémillard and George Tselioudis

Abstract

From its location on the subtropics–midlatitude boundary, the Azores is influenced by both the subtropical high pressure and the midlatitude baroclinic storm regimes and therefore experiences a wide range of cloud structures, from fair-weather scenes to stratocumulus sheets and deep convective systems. This work combines three types of datasets to study cloud variability in the Azores: a satellite analysis of cloud regimes, a reanalysis characterization of storminess, and a 19-month field campaign that occurred on Graciosa Island. Combined analysis of the three datasets provides a detailed picture of cloud variability and the respective dynamic influences, with emphasis on low clouds that constitute a major uncertainty source in climate model simulations. The satellite cloud regime analysis shows that the Azores cloud distribution is similar to the mean global distribution and can therefore be used to evaluate cloud simulation in global models. Regime analysis of low clouds shows that stratocumulus decks occur under the influence of the Azores high pressure system, while shallow cumulus clouds are sustained by cold-air outbreaks, as revealed by their preference for postfrontal environments and northwesterly flows. An evaluation of climate model cloud regimes from phase 5 of CMIP (CMIP5) over the Azores shows that all models severely underpredict shallow cumulus clouds, while most models also underpredict the occurrence of stratocumulus cloud decks. It is demonstrated that the regime analysis can assist in the selection of case studies representing specific climatological cloud distributions. With all the tools now in place, a methodology is suggested to better understand cloud–dynamics interactions and attempt to explain and correct climate model cloud deficiencies.

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Jasmine Rémillard, Pavlos Kollias, Edward Luke, and Robert Wood

Abstract

The recent deployment of the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program (ARM) Mobile Facility at Graciosa Island, Azores, in the context of the Clouds, Aerosol and Precipitation in the Marine Boundary Layer (CAP-MBL) field campaign added the most extensive (19 months) and comprehensive dataset of marine boundary layer (MBL) clouds to date. Cloud occurrence is high (60%–80%), with a summertime minimum. Liquid precipitation is frequently present (30%–40%), mainly in the form of virga. Boundary layer clouds are the most frequently observed cloud type (40%–50%) with a maximum of occurrence during the summer and fall months under the presence of anticyclonic conditions. Cumulus clouds are the most frequently occurring MBL cloud type (20%) with cumulus under stratocumulus layers (10%–30%) and single-layer stratocumulus (0%–10%) following in frequency of occurrence. A stable transition layer in the subcloud layer is commonly observed (92% of the soundings). Cumulus cloud bases and stratocumulus cloud tops correlate very well with the top of the transition layer and the inversion base, respectively. Drizzling stratocumulus layers are thicker (350–400 m) and have higher liquid water path (75–150 g m−2) than their nondrizzling counterparts (100–250 m and 30–75 g m−2, respectively). The variance of the vertical air motion is maximum near the cloud base and is higher at night. The updraft mass flux is around 0.17 kg m−2 s−1 with 40%–60% explained by coherent updraft structures. Despite a high frequency of stratocumulus clouds in the Azores, the MBL is almost never well mixed and is often cumulus coupled.

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Robert Wood, Matthew Wyant, Christopher S. Bretherton, Jasmine Rémillard, Pavlos Kollias, Jennifer Fletcher, Jayson Stemmler, Simone de Szoeke, Sandra Yuter, Matthew Miller, David Mechem, George Tselioudis, J. Christine Chiu, Julian A. L. Mann, Ewan J. O’Connor, Robin J. Hogan, Xiquan Dong, Mark Miller, Virendra Ghate, Anne Jefferson, Qilong Min, Patrick Minnis, Rabindra Palikonda, Bruce Albrecht, Ed Luke, Cecile Hannay, and Yanluan Lin

Abstract

The Clouds, Aerosol, and Precipitation in the Marine Boundary Layer (CAP-MBL) deployment at Graciosa Island in the Azores generated a 21-month (April 2009–December 2010) comprehensive dataset documenting clouds, aerosols, and precipitation using the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program (ARM) Mobile Facility (AMF). The scientific aim of the deployment is to gain improved understanding of the interactions of clouds, aerosols, and precipitation in the marine boundary layer.

Graciosa Island straddles the boundary between the subtropics and midlatitudes in the northeast Atlantic Ocean and consequently experiences a great diversity of meteorological and cloudiness conditions. Low clouds are the dominant cloud type, with stratocumulus and cumulus occurring regularly. Approximately half of all clouds contained precipitation detectable as radar echoes below the cloud base. Radar and satellite observations show that clouds with tops from 1 to 11 km contribute more or less equally to surface-measured precipitation at Graciosa. A wide range of aerosol conditions was sampled during the deployment consistent with the diversity of sources as indicated by back-trajectory analysis. Preliminary findings suggest important two-way interactions between aerosols and clouds at Graciosa, with aerosols affecting light precipitation and cloud radiative properties while being controlled in part by precipitation scavenging.

The data from Graciosa are being compared with short-range forecasts made with a variety of models. A pilot analysis with two climate and two weather forecast models shows that they reproduce the observed time-varying vertical structure of lower-tropospheric cloud fairly well but the cloud-nucleating aerosol concentrations less well. The Graciosa site has been chosen to be a permanent fixed ARM site that became operational in October 2013.

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