Comparison of ISCCP and Other Cloud Amounts

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  • 1 NASA Goddard institute for Space Studies, New York, New York
  • | 2 Hughes STX, New York, New York
  • | 3 Columbia University, New York, New York
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Abstract

A new 8-year global cloud climatology has been produced by the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) that provides information every 3 h at 280-km spatial resolution covering the period from July 1983 through June 1991. If cloud detection errors and differences in area sampling are neglected, individual ISCCP cloud amounts agree with individual surface observations to within 15% rms with biases of only a few percent. When measurements of small-scale, broken clouds are isolated in the comparison, the rms differences between satellite and surface cloud amounts are about 25%, similar to the rms difference between ISCCP and Landsat determinations of cloud amount. For broken clouds, the average ISCCP cloud amounts are about 5% smaller than estimated by surface observers (difference between earth cover and sky cover), but about 5% larger than estimated from very high spatial resolution satellite observations (overestimate due to low spatial resolution offset by underestimate due to finite radiance thresholds). Detection errors, caused by errors in the ISCCP clear-sky radiances or incorrect radiance threshold magnitude are the dominant source of error in monthly average cloud amounts. The ISCCP cloud amounts appear to he too low over land by about 10%, somewhat less in summer and somewhat more in winter, and about right (maybe slightly low) over oceans. In polar regions, ISCCP cloud amounts are probably too low by about 15%–25% in summer and 5%–10% in winter. Comparison of the ISCCP climatology to three other cloud climatologies shows excellent agreement in the geographic distribution and seasonal variation of cloud amounts; there is little agreement about day/night contrasts in cloud amount. Notable results from ISCCP are that the global annual mean cloud amount is about 63%, being about 23% higher over oceans than over land, that it varies by <1% rms from month to month, and that it has varied by about 4% on a time wale ≈2–4 years. The magnitude of interannual variations of local (280-km scale) monthly mean cloud amounts is about 7%–9%. Longitudinal contrasts in cloud amount are just as large as latitudinal contrasts. The largest seasonal variation of cloud amount occurs in the tropics, being larger in summer than in winter; the seasonal variation in middle latitudes has the opposite phase. Polar regions may have little seasonal variability in cloud amount. The ISCCP results show slightly more nighttime than daytime cloud amount over oceans and more daytime than nighttime cloud amount over land.

Abstract

A new 8-year global cloud climatology has been produced by the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) that provides information every 3 h at 280-km spatial resolution covering the period from July 1983 through June 1991. If cloud detection errors and differences in area sampling are neglected, individual ISCCP cloud amounts agree with individual surface observations to within 15% rms with biases of only a few percent. When measurements of small-scale, broken clouds are isolated in the comparison, the rms differences between satellite and surface cloud amounts are about 25%, similar to the rms difference between ISCCP and Landsat determinations of cloud amount. For broken clouds, the average ISCCP cloud amounts are about 5% smaller than estimated by surface observers (difference between earth cover and sky cover), but about 5% larger than estimated from very high spatial resolution satellite observations (overestimate due to low spatial resolution offset by underestimate due to finite radiance thresholds). Detection errors, caused by errors in the ISCCP clear-sky radiances or incorrect radiance threshold magnitude are the dominant source of error in monthly average cloud amounts. The ISCCP cloud amounts appear to he too low over land by about 10%, somewhat less in summer and somewhat more in winter, and about right (maybe slightly low) over oceans. In polar regions, ISCCP cloud amounts are probably too low by about 15%–25% in summer and 5%–10% in winter. Comparison of the ISCCP climatology to three other cloud climatologies shows excellent agreement in the geographic distribution and seasonal variation of cloud amounts; there is little agreement about day/night contrasts in cloud amount. Notable results from ISCCP are that the global annual mean cloud amount is about 63%, being about 23% higher over oceans than over land, that it varies by <1% rms from month to month, and that it has varied by about 4% on a time wale ≈2–4 years. The magnitude of interannual variations of local (280-km scale) monthly mean cloud amounts is about 7%–9%. Longitudinal contrasts in cloud amount are just as large as latitudinal contrasts. The largest seasonal variation of cloud amount occurs in the tropics, being larger in summer than in winter; the seasonal variation in middle latitudes has the opposite phase. Polar regions may have little seasonal variability in cloud amount. The ISCCP results show slightly more nighttime than daytime cloud amount over oceans and more daytime than nighttime cloud amount over land.

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