interannual Variability in Stratiform Cloudiness and Sea Surface Temperature

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
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Abstract

Marine stratiform cloudiness (MSC) (stratus, stratocumulus, and fog) is widespread over subtropical oceans west of the continents and over midlatitude oceans during summer, the season when MSC has maximum influence on surface downward radiation and is most influenced by boundary-layer processes. Long-term datasets of cloudiness and sea surface temperature (SST) from surface observations from 1952 to 1981 are used to examine interannual variations in MSC and SST. Linear correlations of anomalies in seasonal MSC amount with seasonal SST anomalies are negative and significant in midlatitude and eastern subtropical oceans, especially during summer. Significant negative correlations between SST and nimbostratus and nonprecipitating midlevel cloudiness are also observed at midlatitudes during summer, suggesting that summer storm tracks shift from year to year following year-to-year meridional shifts in the SST gradient. Over the 30-yr period, there are significant upward trends in MSC amount over the northern midlatitude oceans and a significant downward trend off the coast of California. The highest correlations and trends occur where gradients in MSC and SST are strongest.

During summer, correlations between SST and MSC anomalies peak at zero lag in midlatitudes where warm advection prevails, but SST lags MSC in subtropical regions where cold advection predominates. This difference is attributed to a tendency for anomalies in latent heat flux to compensate anomalies in surface downward radiation in warm advection regions but not in cold advection regions.

Abstract

Marine stratiform cloudiness (MSC) (stratus, stratocumulus, and fog) is widespread over subtropical oceans west of the continents and over midlatitude oceans during summer, the season when MSC has maximum influence on surface downward radiation and is most influenced by boundary-layer processes. Long-term datasets of cloudiness and sea surface temperature (SST) from surface observations from 1952 to 1981 are used to examine interannual variations in MSC and SST. Linear correlations of anomalies in seasonal MSC amount with seasonal SST anomalies are negative and significant in midlatitude and eastern subtropical oceans, especially during summer. Significant negative correlations between SST and nimbostratus and nonprecipitating midlevel cloudiness are also observed at midlatitudes during summer, suggesting that summer storm tracks shift from year to year following year-to-year meridional shifts in the SST gradient. Over the 30-yr period, there are significant upward trends in MSC amount over the northern midlatitude oceans and a significant downward trend off the coast of California. The highest correlations and trends occur where gradients in MSC and SST are strongest.

During summer, correlations between SST and MSC anomalies peak at zero lag in midlatitudes where warm advection prevails, but SST lags MSC in subtropical regions where cold advection predominates. This difference is attributed to a tendency for anomalies in latent heat flux to compensate anomalies in surface downward radiation in warm advection regions but not in cold advection regions.

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