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Kirk D. Poore
Junhong Wang
, and
William B. Rossow


Cloud layer thicknesses are derived from base and top altitudes by combining 14 years (1975–1988) of surface and upper-air observations at 63 sites in the Northern Hemisphere. Rawinsonde observations are employed to determine the locations of cloud-layer top and base by testing for dewpoint temperature depressions below some threshold value. Surface observations serve as quality cheeks on the rawinsonde-determined cloud properties and provide cloud amount and cloud-type information. The dataset provides layer-cloud amount, cloud type, high, middle, or low height classes, cloud-top heights, base heights and layer thicknesses, covering a range of latitudes from 0° to 80°N. All data comes from land sites: 34 are located in continental interiors, 14 are near coasts, and 15 are on islands. The uncertainties in the derived cloud properties are discussed. For clouds classified by low-, mid-, and high-top altitudes, there are strong latitudinal and seasonal variations in the layer thickness only for high clouds. High-cloud layer thickness increases with latitude and exhibits different seasonal variations in different latitude zones: in summer, high-cloud layer thickness is a maximum in the Tropics but a minimum at high latitudes. For clouds classified into three types by base altitude or into six standard morphological types, latitudinal and seasonal variations in layer thickness are very small. The thickness of the clear surface layer decreases with latitude and reaches a summer minimum in the Tropics and summer maximum at higher latitudes over land, but does not vary much over the ocean. Tropical clouds occur in three base-altitude groups and the layer thickness of each group increases linearly with top altitude. Extratropical clouds exhibit two groups, one with layer thickness proportional to their cloud-top altitude and one with small (≤1000 m) layer thickness independent of cloud-top altitude.

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