An Eight-Month Sample of Marine Stratocumulus Cloud Fraction, Albedo, and Integrated Liquid Water

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
  • | 2 NOAA/ERL/WPL, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

As part of the First International Satellite Cloud Climatology Regional Experiment (FIRE), a surface meteorology and shortwave/longwave irradiance station was operated in a marine stratocumulus regime on the northwest tip of San Nicolas island off the coast of Southern California. Measurements were taken from March through October 1987, including a FIRE Intensive Field Operation (IFO) held in July. Algorithms were developed to use the longwave irradiance data to estimate fractional cloudiness and to use the shortwave irradiance to estimate cloud albedo and integrated cloud liquid water content. Cloud base height is estimated from computations of the lifting condensation level. The algorithms are tested against direct measurements made during the IFO; a 30% adjustment was made to the liquid water parameterization. The algorithms are then applied to the entire database. The stratocumulus clouds over the island are found to have a cloud base height of about 400 m, an integrated liquid water content of 75 gm−2, a fractional cloudiness of 0.95, and an albedo of 0.55. Integrated liquid water content rarely exceeds 350 g m−2 and albedo rarely exceeds 0.90 for stratocumulus clouds. Over the summer months, the average cloud fraction shows a maximum at sunrise of 0.74 and a minimum at sunset of 0.41. Over the same period, the average cloud albedo shows a maximum of 0.61 at sunrise and a minimum of 0.31 a few hours after local noon (although the estimate is more uncertain because of the extreme solar zenith angle). The use of joint frequency distributions of fractional cloudiness with solar transmittance or cloud base height to classify cloud types appears to be useful.

Abstract

As part of the First International Satellite Cloud Climatology Regional Experiment (FIRE), a surface meteorology and shortwave/longwave irradiance station was operated in a marine stratocumulus regime on the northwest tip of San Nicolas island off the coast of Southern California. Measurements were taken from March through October 1987, including a FIRE Intensive Field Operation (IFO) held in July. Algorithms were developed to use the longwave irradiance data to estimate fractional cloudiness and to use the shortwave irradiance to estimate cloud albedo and integrated cloud liquid water content. Cloud base height is estimated from computations of the lifting condensation level. The algorithms are tested against direct measurements made during the IFO; a 30% adjustment was made to the liquid water parameterization. The algorithms are then applied to the entire database. The stratocumulus clouds over the island are found to have a cloud base height of about 400 m, an integrated liquid water content of 75 gm−2, a fractional cloudiness of 0.95, and an albedo of 0.55. Integrated liquid water content rarely exceeds 350 g m−2 and albedo rarely exceeds 0.90 for stratocumulus clouds. Over the summer months, the average cloud fraction shows a maximum at sunrise of 0.74 and a minimum at sunset of 0.41. Over the same period, the average cloud albedo shows a maximum of 0.61 at sunrise and a minimum of 0.31 a few hours after local noon (although the estimate is more uncertain because of the extreme solar zenith angle). The use of joint frequency distributions of fractional cloudiness with solar transmittance or cloud base height to classify cloud types appears to be useful.

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