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Anthony D. Del Genio
and
William Kovari

Abstract

A clustering algorithm is used to define the radiative, hydrological, and microphysical properties of precipitating convective events in the equatorial region observed by the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite. Storms are separated by surface type, size, and updraft strength, the latter defined by the presence or absence of lightning. SST data and global reanalysis products are used to explore sensitivity to changes in environmental conditions. Small storms are much more numerous than mesoscale convective systems, and account for fairly little of the total rainfall but contribute significantly to reflection of sunlight. Lightning storms rain more heavily, have greater cloud area, extend to higher altitude, and have higher albedos than storms without lightning. Lightning is favored by a steep lower-troposphere lapse rate and moist midlevel humidity. Storms occur more often at SST ≥ 28°C and with strong upward 500-mb mean vertical velocity. In general, storms over warmer ocean waters rain more heavily, are larger, and have higher cloud tops, but they do not have noticeably higher albedos than storms over cooler ocean waters. Mesoscale convective system properties are more sensitive to SST. Rain rates and cloud-top heights increase statistically significantly with mean upward motion. Rain rates increase with albedo and cloud-top height over ocean, but over land there are also storms with cloud-top temperatures >−35°C whose rain rates decrease with increasing albedo. Both the fraction of available moisture that rains out and the fraction that detrains as ice increase with SST, the former faster than the latter. TRMM ice water paths derived from cloud-resolving models but constrained by observed microwave radiances are only weakly correlated with observed albedo. The results are inconsistent with the “adaptive iris” hypothesis and suggest feedbacks due primarily to increasing convective cloud cover with warming, but more weakly than predicted by the “thermostat” hypothesis.

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Catherine M. Naud
,
Anthony D. Del Genio
,
Mike Bauer
, and
William Kovari

Abstract

Cloud vertical distributions across extratropical warm and cold fronts are obtained using two consecutive winters of CloudSat–Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) observations and National Centers for Environmental Prediction reanalysis atmospheric state parameters over the Northern and Southern Hemisphere oceans (30°–70°N/S) between November 2006 and September 2008. These distributions generally resemble those from the original model introduced by the Bergen School in the 1920s, with the following exceptions: 1) substantial low cloudiness, which is present behind and ahead of the warm and cold fronts; 2) ubiquitous high cloudiness, some of it very thin, throughout the warm-frontal region; and 3) upright convective cloudiness near and behind some warm fronts. One winter of GISS general circulation model simulations of Northern and Southern Hemisphere warm and cold fronts at 2° × 2.5° × 32 levels resolution gives similar cloud distributions but with much lower cloud fraction, a shallower depth of cloudiness, and a shorter extent of tilted warm-frontal cloud cover on the cold air side of the surface frontal position. A close examination of the relationship between the cloudiness and relative humidity fields indicates that water vapor is not lifted enough in modeled midlatitude cyclones and this is related to weak vertical velocities in the model. The model also produces too little cloudiness for a given value of vertical velocity or relative humidity. For global climate models run at scales coarser than tens of kilometers, the authors suggest that the current underestimate of modeled cloud cover in the storm track regions, and in particular the 50°–60°S band of the Southern Oceans, could be reduced with the implementation of a slantwise convection parameterization.

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Anthony D. Del Genio
,
William Kovari
,
Mao-Sung Yao
, and
Jeffrey Jonas

Abstract

Precipitation processes in convective storms are potentially a major regulator of cloud feedback. An unresolved issue is how the partitioning of convective condensate between precipitation-size particles that fall out of updrafts and smaller particles that are detrained to form anvil clouds will change as the climate warms. Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) observations of tropical oceanic convective storms indicate higher precipitation efficiency at warmer sea surface temperature (SST) but also suggest that cumulus anvil sizes, albedos, and ice water paths become insensitive to warming at high temperatures. International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) data show that instantaneous cirrus and deep convective cloud fractions are positively correlated and increase with SST except at the highest temperatures, but are sensitive to variations in large-scale vertical velocity. A simple conceptual model based on a Marshall–Palmer drop size distribution, empirical terminal velocity–particle size relationships, and assumed cumulus updraft speeds reproduces the observed tendency for detrained condensate to approach a limiting value at high SST. These results suggest that the climatic behavior of observed tropical convective clouds is intermediate between the extremes required to support the thermostat and adaptive iris hypotheses.

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George Tselioudis
,
Anthony D. DelGenio
,
William Kovari Jr.
, and
Mao-Sung Yao

Abstract

A current-climate simulation of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) GCM, which includes interactive cloud optical properties that depend on the predicted cloud water content, is analyzed to document the variations of low cloud optical thickness with temperature in the model atmosphere. It is found that low cloud optical thickness decreases with temperature in the warm subtropical and tropical latitudes and increases with temperature in the cold midlatitude regions. This behavior is in agreement with the results of two observational studies that analyzed satellite data from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project and Special Sensor Microwave/Imager datasets. The increase of low cloud optical thickness with temperature in the midlatitudes is due to vertical extent and cloud water increases, whereas the decrease with temperature in the warm latitudes is due to decreases in cloud water content and happens despite increases in cloud vertical extent. The cloud processes that produce the cloud property changes in the model also vary with latitude. In the midlatitude regions relative-humidity-induced increases of cloud vertical extent with temperature dominate, whereas in the Tropics increases in cloud-top entrainment and precipitation with temperature produce decreases of cloud water content, whose effect on optical thickness outweighs the effect of entrainment-induced increases of cloud vertical extent with temperature. Doubled-CO2 simulations with the GISS GCM suggest that even though low cloud optical thickness changes have little effect on the global climate sensitivity of the model, they redistribute the temperature change and reduce the high-latitude amplification of the greenhouse warming. It is also found that the current-climate variations of low cloud optical thickness with temperature reproduce qualitatively but overestimate quantitatively the changes in optical thickness with climate warming.

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Anthony D. Del Genio
,
Mao-Sung Yao
,
William Kovari
, and
Kenneth K-W. Lo

Abstract

An efficient new prognostic cloud water parameterization designed for use in global climate models is described. The scheme allows for life cycle effects in stratiform clouds and permits cloud optical properties to be determined interactively. The parameterization contains representations of all important microphysical processes, including autoconversion, accretion, Bergeron–Findeisen diffusional growth, and cloud/rain water evaporation. Small-scale dynamical processes, including detrainment of convective condensate, cloud-top entrainment instability, and stability-dependent cloud physical thickness variations, are also taken into account. Cloud optical thickness is calculated from the predicted liquid/ice water path and a variable droplet effective radius estimated by assuming constant droplet number concentration. Microphysical and radiative properties are assumed to be different for liquid and ice clouds, and for liquid clouds over land and ocean.

The parameterization is validated in several simulations using the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) general circulation model (GCM). Comparisons are made with a variety of datasets, including ERBE radiative fluxes and cloud forcing, ISCCP and surface-observed cloud properties, SSM/I liquid water path, and SAGE II thin cirrus cover. Validation is judged on the basis of the model's depiction of both the mean state; diurnal, seasonal, and interannual variability; and the temperature dependence of cloud properties. Relative to the diagnostic cloud scheme used in the previous GISS GCM, the prognostic parameterization strengthens the model's hydrologic cycle and general circulation, both directly and indirectly (via increased cumulus heating). Sea surface temperature (SST) perturbation experiments produce low climate sensitivity and slightly negative cloud feedback for globally uniform SST changes, but high sensitivity and positive cloud feedback when tropical Pacific SST gradients weaken with warming. Changes in the extent and optical thickness of tropical cumulus anvils appear to be the primary factor determining the sensitivity. This suggests that correct simulations of upward transport of convective condensate and of Walker circulation changes are of the highest priority for a realistic estimate of cloud feedback in actual greenhouse gas increase scenarios.

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