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The Seasonal Cycle of Low Stratiform Clouds

Stephen A. KleinDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Dennis L. HartmannDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Abstract

The seasonal cycle of low stratiform clouds is studied using data from surface-based cloud climatologies. The impact of low clouds on the radiation budget is illustrated by comparison of data from the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment with the cloud climatologies. Ten regions of active stratocumulus convection are identified. These regions fall into four categories: subtropical marine, midlatitude marine, Arctic stratus, and Chinese stratus. With the exception of the Chinese region, all the regions with high amounts of stratus clouds are over the oceans.

In all regions except the Arctic, the season of maximum stratus corresponds to the season of greatest lower-troposphere static stability. Interannual variations in stratus cloud amount also are related to changes in static stability. A linear analysis indicates that a 6% increase in stratus fractional area coverage is associated with each 1°C increase in static stability. Over midlatitude oceans, sky-obscuring fog is a large component of the summertime stratus amount. The amount of fog appears to be related to warm advection across sharp gradients of SST.

Abstract

The seasonal cycle of low stratiform clouds is studied using data from surface-based cloud climatologies. The impact of low clouds on the radiation budget is illustrated by comparison of data from the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment with the cloud climatologies. Ten regions of active stratocumulus convection are identified. These regions fall into four categories: subtropical marine, midlatitude marine, Arctic stratus, and Chinese stratus. With the exception of the Chinese region, all the regions with high amounts of stratus clouds are over the oceans.

In all regions except the Arctic, the season of maximum stratus corresponds to the season of greatest lower-troposphere static stability. Interannual variations in stratus cloud amount also are related to changes in static stability. A linear analysis indicates that a 6% increase in stratus fractional area coverage is associated with each 1°C increase in static stability. Over midlatitude oceans, sky-obscuring fog is a large component of the summertime stratus amount. The amount of fog appears to be related to warm advection across sharp gradients of SST.

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