Cloudiness and Its Relationship to Saturation Pressure Differences during a Developing East Coast Winter Storm

View More View Less
  • 1 Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
© Get Permissions
Full access

Abstract

Cloudiness derived from surface observations and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite VISSR (Visible–Infrared Spin Scan Radiometer) Atmospheric Sounder (VAS) are compared with thermodynamic properties derived from upper-air soundings over the Gulf Stream locale during a developing winter storm. The Gulf Stream locale covers the United States mid-Atlantic coastal states, the Gulf Stream, and portions of the Sargasso Sea. Cloudiness is found quite frequently in this region. Cloud-top pressures are derived from VAS using the CO2 slicing technique and a simple threshold procedure. Cloud-base heights and cloud fractions are obtained from National Weather Service hourly reporting stations. The saturation pressure differences, defined as the difference between air parcel pressure and saturation-level pressure (lifted condensation level), are derived from upper-air soundings. Collocated comparisons with VAS and surface observations are also made. Results indicate that cloudiness is observed nearly all of the time during the 6-day period, well above the 8-yr mean. High, middle, and low opaque cloudiness are found approximately equally. Furthermore, of the high- and midlevel cloudiness observed, a considerable amount is determined to be semitransparent to terrestrial radiation. Comparisons of satellite-inferred cloudiness with surface observations indicate that the satellite can complement surface observations of cloud cover, particularly above 700 mb.

Surface-observed cloudiness is segregated according to a composite cloud fraction and compared to the mean saturation pressure difference for a 1000–600-mb layer. The analysis suggests that this conserved variable may be a good indicator for estimating cloud fraction. Large negative values of saturation pressure difference correlate highly with clear skies, while those approaching zero correlate with overcast conditions. Scattered and broken cloud fractions are associated with increasing values of the saturation pressure difference. Furthermore, cloud fractions observed in this study are considerably higher than those reported in similar studies and by other cloud fraction formulations.

Abstract

Cloudiness derived from surface observations and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite VISSR (Visible–Infrared Spin Scan Radiometer) Atmospheric Sounder (VAS) are compared with thermodynamic properties derived from upper-air soundings over the Gulf Stream locale during a developing winter storm. The Gulf Stream locale covers the United States mid-Atlantic coastal states, the Gulf Stream, and portions of the Sargasso Sea. Cloudiness is found quite frequently in this region. Cloud-top pressures are derived from VAS using the CO2 slicing technique and a simple threshold procedure. Cloud-base heights and cloud fractions are obtained from National Weather Service hourly reporting stations. The saturation pressure differences, defined as the difference between air parcel pressure and saturation-level pressure (lifted condensation level), are derived from upper-air soundings. Collocated comparisons with VAS and surface observations are also made. Results indicate that cloudiness is observed nearly all of the time during the 6-day period, well above the 8-yr mean. High, middle, and low opaque cloudiness are found approximately equally. Furthermore, of the high- and midlevel cloudiness observed, a considerable amount is determined to be semitransparent to terrestrial radiation. Comparisons of satellite-inferred cloudiness with surface observations indicate that the satellite can complement surface observations of cloud cover, particularly above 700 mb.

Surface-observed cloudiness is segregated according to a composite cloud fraction and compared to the mean saturation pressure difference for a 1000–600-mb layer. The analysis suggests that this conserved variable may be a good indicator for estimating cloud fraction. Large negative values of saturation pressure difference correlate highly with clear skies, while those approaching zero correlate with overcast conditions. Scattered and broken cloud fractions are associated with increasing values of the saturation pressure difference. Furthermore, cloud fractions observed in this study are considerably higher than those reported in similar studies and by other cloud fraction formulations.

Save