Search Results

You are looking at 1 - 10 of 56 items for

  • Author or Editor: Tristan L’Ecuyer x
  • All content x
Clear All Modify Search
Anne Sledd and Tristan L’Ecuyer

Abstract

The Arctic is rapidly changing, with increasingly dramatic sea ice loss and surface warming in recent decades. Shortwave radiation plays a key role in Arctic warming during summer months, and absorbed shortwave radiation has been increasing largely because of greater sea ice loss. Clouds can influence this ice–albedo feedback by modulating the amount of shortwave radiation incident on the Arctic Ocean. In turn, clouds impact the amount of time that must elapse before forced trends in Arctic shortwave absorption emerge from internal variability. This study determines whether the forced climate response of absorbed shortwave radiation in the Arctic has emerged in the modern satellite record and global climate models. From 18 years of satellite observations from CERES-EBAF, we find that recent declines in sea ice are large enough to produce a statistically significant trend (1.7 × 106 PJ or 3.9% per decade) in observed clear-sky absorbed shortwave radiation. However, clouds preclude any forced trends in all-sky absorption from emerging within the existing satellite record. Across 18 models from phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6), the predicted time to emergence of absorbed shortwave radiation trends varies from 8 to 39 and from 8 to 35 years for all-sky and clear-sky conditions, respectively, across two future scenarios. Furthermore, most models fail to reproduce the observed cloud delaying effect because of differences in internal variability. Contrary to observations, one-third of models suggest that clouds may reduce the time to emergence of absorbed shortwave trends relative to clear skies, an artifact that may be the result of inaccurate representations of cloud feedbacks.

Restricted access
Mark Smalley and Tristan L’Ecuyer

Abstract

The spatial distribution of precipitation occurrence has important implications for numerous applications ranging from defining cloud radiative effects to modeling hydrologic runoff, statistical downscaling, and stochastic weather generation. This paper introduces a new method of describing the spatial characteristics of rainfall and snowfall that takes advantage of the high sensitivity and high resolution of the W-band cloud precipitation radar aboard CloudSat. The resolution dependence of precipitation occurrence is described by a two-parameter exponential function defined by a shape factor that governs the variation in the distances between precipitation events and a scale length that represents the overall probability of precipitation and number density of distinct events.

Geographic variations in the shape factor and scale length are consistent with large-scale circulation patterns and correlate with environmental conditions on local scales. For example, a large contrast in scale lengths between land and ocean areas reflects the more extensive, widespread nature of precipitation over land than over ocean. An analysis of warm rain in the southeast Pacific reveals a shift from frequent isolated systems to less frequent but more regularly spaced systems along a transect connecting stratocumulus and trade cumulus cloud regimes. A similar analysis during the Amazon wet season reveals a relationship between the size and frequency of convection and zonal wind direction with precipitation exhibiting a more oceanic character during periods of westerly winds. These select examples demonstrate the utility of this approach for capturing the sensitivity of the spatial characteristics of precipitation to environmental influences on both local and larger scales.

Full access
Tristan S. L’Ecuyer and Graeme L. Stephens

Abstract

The impact of clouds and precipitation on the climate is a strong function of their spatial distribution and microphysical properties, characteristics that depend, in turn, on the environments in which they form. Simulating feedbacks between clouds, precipitation, and their surroundings therefore places an enormous burden on the parameterized physics used in current climate models. This paper uses multisensor observations from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) to assess the representation of the response of regional energy and water cycles in the tropical Pacific to the strong 1998 El Niño event in (Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project) AMIP-style simulations from the climate models that participated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) most recent assessment report. The relationship between model errors and uncertainties in their representation of the impacts of clouds and precipitation on local energy budgets is also explored.

With the exception of cloud radiative impacts that are often overestimated in both regions, the responses of atmospheric composition and heating to El Niño are generally captured in the east Pacific where the SST forcing is locally direct. Many models fail, however, to correctly predict the magnitude of induced trends in the west Pacific where the response depends more critically on accurate representation of the zonal atmospheric circulation. As a result, a majority of the models examined do not reproduce the apparent westward transport of energy in the equatorial Pacific during the 1998 El Niño event. Furthermore, the intermodel variability in the responses of precipitation, total heating, and vertical motion is often larger than the intrinsic ENSO signal itself, implying an inherent lack of predictive capability in the ensemble with regard to the response of the mean zonal atmospheric circulation in the tropical Pacific to ENSO. While ENSO does not necessarily provide a proxy for anthropogenic climate change, the results suggest that deficiencies remain in the representation of relationships between radiation, clouds, and precipitation in current climate models that cannot be ignored when interpreting their predictions of future climate.

Full access
Tristan S. L'Ecuyer and Graeme L. Stephens

Abstract

A new method for retrieving rainfall profiles from a spaceborne radar is introduced. As a result of the frequencies necessary in spaceborne radar applications, attenuation by both rainfall and liquid cloud particles is nonnegligible and must be accurately accounted for before quantitative rainfall estimates can be made. The proposed method is based on the minimization of a cost function that allows one to account for attenuation at each level directly in the iteration process. In addition, the algorithm does not invoke the Rayleigh approximation and is, therefore, applicable at wavelengths characteristic of spaceborne radars. The method is flexible with regard to the parameters to be retrieved and is well-suited for the addition of measurements from other sensors, such as a passive microwave radiometer, to constrain the retrieval. Preliminary results, using simplified assumptions of drop size distribution and particle shape, illustrate the utility of the algorithm provided the attenuation is not severe. At the frequency of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) precipitation radar (14 GHz), synthetic retrievals are accurate to within 20% for rain rates up to 40 mm h−1. On the other hand, at 94 GHz, the frequency of the CloudSat cloud profiling radar, attenuation effects are too severe at rain rates greater than 1.5 mm h−1, suggesting the need for additional information to constrain the retrieval. Such information might come in the form of a path-integrated attenuation (PIA) derived from surface echo measurements or, alternatively, a precipitation water path (PWP) estimate from a passive microwave radiometer. Addition of a simple PWP constraint yields improvements in the retrieved rainfall profiles from both instruments when attenuation is severe. At 94 GHz, in particular, it is found that accurate quantitative rainfall estimates can be made provided the near-surface rain rate does not exceed 10 mm h−1.

Full access
Tristan S. L'Ecuyer and Graeme L. Stephens

Abstract

The earth's weather and climate is driven by the meridional transport of energy required to establish a global balance between incoming energy from the sun and outgoing thermal energy emitted by the atmosphere and surface. Clouds and precipitation play an integral role in the exchange of these sources of energy between the surface, atmosphere, and space—enhancing reflection of solar radiation to space, trapping thermal emission from the surface, and providing a mechanism for the direct transfer of energy to the atmosphere through the release of latent heat in precipitation. This paper introduces a new multisensor algorithm for extracting longwave, shortwave, and latent heat fluxes over oceans from the sensors aboard the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite. The technique synthesizes complementary information from distinct retrievals of high and low clouds and precipitation from the TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI) and Visible and Infrared Scanner (VIRS) instruments to initialize broadband radiative transfer calculations for deriving the structure of radiative heating in oceanic regions from 40°S to 40°N and its evolution on daily and monthly timescales.

Sensitivity studies using rigorous estimates of the uncertainties in all input parameters and detailed comparisons with flux observations from the Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) are used to study the dominant influences on the algorithm's performance and to assess the accuracy of its products. The results demonstrate that the technique provides monthly mean estimates of oceanic longwave fluxes at 1° resolution to an accuracy of ∼10 W m−2. Uncertainties in these estimates are found to arise primarily from a lack of explicit vertical cloud boundary information and errors in prescribed temperature and humidity profiles. Corresponding shortwave flux estimates are shown to be accurate to ∼25 W m−2, with uncertainties due to errors in cloud detection, poorly constrained cloud particle sizes, and uncertainties in the prescribed surface albedo. When viewed as a whole, the components of the method provide a tool to diagnose relationships between the climate, hydrologic cycle, and the earth's energy budget.

Full access
Hirohiko Masunaga and Tristan S. L’Ecuyer

Abstract

The equatorial asymmetry of the east Pacific intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) is explored on the basis of an ocean surface heat budget analysis carried out with a variety of satellite data products. The annual mean climatology of absorbed shortwave flux exhibits a pronounced meridional asymmetry due to a reduction of insolation by high clouds in the north ITCZ. Ocean mixed layer advection has the largest, if not exclusive, effect of counteracting this shortwave-exerted asymmetry. Other heat fluxes, in particular latent heat flux, predominate over the advective heat flux in magnitude but are secondary with respect to equatorial asymmetry. The asymmetry in advective heat flux stems from a warm pool off the Central American coast and, to a lesser extent, the North Equatorial Counter Current, neither of which exist in the Southern Hemisphere. The irregular continental geography presumably comes into play by generating a warm pool north of the equator and bringing cold waters to the south in the far eastern Pacific.

In addition to the annual climatology, the north–south contrast in the seasonal cycle of surface heat flux is instrumental in sustaining the north ITCZ throughout the year. The northeast Pacific is exposed to a seasonal cycle that is considerably weaker than that in the southeast Pacific, arising from multiple causes including the finite eccentricity of the earth’s orbit and meridional gradient in mixed layer absorptivity. Simple experiments generating synthetic sea surface temperature (SST) illustrate that the muted seasonal cycle of heat flux forcing moderates the SST seasonal variability in the northeast Pacific and thus allows the north ITCZ to persist year round. Existing theories on the ITCZ asymmetry are briefly examined in light of the present findings.

Full access
Wesley Berg, Tristan L'Ecuyer, and Christian Kummerow

Abstract

Intercomparisons of satellite rainfall products have historically focused on the issue of global mean biases. Regional and temporal variations in these biases, however, are equally important for many climate applications. This has led to a critical examination of rainfall estimates from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI) and precipitation radar (PR). Because of the time-dependent nature of these biases, it is not possible to apply corrections based on regionally defined characteristics. Instead, this paper seeks to relate PR–TMI differences to physical variables that can lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the observed differences. To simplify the analysis, issues related to differences in rainfall detection and intensity are investigated separately. For clouds identified as raining by both sensors, differences in rainfall intensity are found to be highly correlated with column water vapor. Adjusting either TMI or PR rain rates based on this simple relationship, which is relatively invariant over both seasonal and interannual time scales, results in a 65%–75% reduction in the rms difference between seasonally averaged climate rainfall estimates. Differences in rainfall detection are most prominent along the midlatitude storm tracks, where widespread, isolated convection trailing frontal systems is often detected only by the higher-resolution PR. Conversely, over the East China Sea clouds below the ∼18-dBZ PR rainfall detection threshold are frequently identified as raining by the TMI. Calculations based on in situ aerosol data collected south of Japan support a hypothesis that high concentrations of sulfate aerosols may contribute to abnormally high liquid water contents within nonprecipitating clouds in this region.

Full access
Tristan S. L’Ecuyer and Greg McGarragh

Abstract

This paper outlines recent advances in estimating atmospheric radiative heating rate profiles from the sensors aboard the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM). The approach employs a deterministic framework in which four distinct retrievals of clouds, precipitation, and other atmospheric and surface properties are combined to form input to a broadband radiative transfer model that simulates profiles of upwelling and downwelling longwave and shortwave radiative fluxes in the atmosphere. Monthly, 5° top of the atmosphere outgoing longwave and shortwave flux estimates agree with corresponding observations from the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) to within 7 W m−2 and 3%, respectively, suggesting that the resulting products can be thought of as extending the eight-month CERES dataset to cover the full lifetime of TRMM.

The analysis of a decade of TRMM data provides a baseline climatology of the vertical structure of atmospheric radiative heating in today’s climate and an estimate of the magnitude of its response to environmental forcings on weekly to interannual time scales. In addition to illustrating the scope and properties of the dataset, the results highlight the strong influence of clouds, water vapor, and large-scale dynamics on regional radiation budgets and the vertical structure of radiative heating in the tropical and subtropical atmospheres. The combination of the radiative heating rate product described here, with profiles of latent heating that are now also being generated from TRMM sensors, provides a unique opportunity to develop large-scale estimates of vertically resolved atmospheric diabatic heating using satellite observations.

Full access
Hirohiko Masunaga and Tristan S. L’Ecuyer

Abstract

Temporal variability in the moist static energy (MSE) budget is studied with measurements from a combination of different satellites including the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and A-Train platforms. A composite time series before and after the development of moist convection is obtained from the observations to delineate the evolution of MSE and moisture convergences and, in their combination, gross moist stability (GMS). A new algorithm is then applied to estimate large-scale vertical motion from energy budget constraints through vertical-mode decomposition into first and second baroclinic modes and a background shallow mode. The findings are indicative of a possible mechanism of tropical convection. A gradual destabilization is brought about by the MSE convergence intrinsic to the positive second baroclinic mode (congestus mode) that increasingly counteracts a weak MSE divergence in the background state. GMS is driven to nearly zero as the first baroclinic mode begins to intensify, accelerating the growth of vigorous large-scale updrafts and deep convection. As the convective burst peaks, the positive second mode switches to the negative mode (stratiform mode) and introduces an abrupt rise in MSE divergence that likely discourages further maintenance of deep convection. The first mode quickly dissipates and GMS increases away from zero, eventually returning to the background shallow-mode state. A notable caveat to this scenario is that GMS serves as a more reliable metric when defined with a radiative heating rate included to offset MSE convergence.

Full access
Hirohiko Masunaga and Tristan S. L’Ecuyer

Abstract

The east Pacific double intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) in austral fall is investigated with particular focus on the growing processes of its Southern Hemisphere branch. Satellite measurements from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) are analyzed to derive 8-yr climatology from 2000 to 2007. The earliest sign of the south ITCZ emerges in sea surface temperature (SST) by January, followed by the gradual development of surface convergence and water vapor. The shallow cumulus population starts growing to form the south ITCZ in February, a month earlier than vigorous deep convection is organized into the south ITCZ. The key factors that give rise to the initial SST enhancement or the southeast Pacific warm band are diagnosed by simple experiments. The experiments are designed to calculate SST, making use of an ocean mixed layer “model” forced by surface heat fluxes, all of which are derived from satellite observations. It is found that the shortwave flux absorbed into the ocean mixed layer is the primary driver of the southeast Pacific warm band. The warm band does not develop in boreal fall because the shortwave flux is seasonally so small that it is overwhelmed by other negative fluxes, including the latent heat and longwave fluxes. Clouds offset the net radiative flux by 10–15 W m−2, which is large enough for the warm band to develop in boreal fall if it were not for clouds reflecting shortwave radiation. Interannual variability of the double ITCZ is also discussed in brief.

Full access