Cloud and Radiative Characteristics of Tropical Deep Convective Systems in...

Eitzen, Z. A., K. Xu, and T. Wong (2009), Cloud and Radiative Characteristics of Tropical Deep Convective Systems in Extended Cloud Objects from CERES Observations, J. Climate, 22, 5983-6000, doi:10.1175/2009JCLI3038.1.

The physical and radiative properties of tropical deep convective systems for the period from January to August 1998 are examined with the use of Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System Single-Scanner Footprint (SSF) data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite. Deep convective (DC) cloud objects are contiguous regions of satellite footprints that fulfill the DC criteria (i.e., overcast footprints with cloud optical depths .10 and cloud-top heights .10 km). Extended cloud objects (ECOs) start with the original cloud object but include all other cloudy footprints within a rectangular box that completely covers the original cloud object. Most of the non-DC footprints are overcast but have optical depths and/or cloud-top heights that are too low to fit the DC criteria. The histograms of cloud physical and radiative properties are analyzed according to the size of the ECO and the SST of the underlying ocean.

Larger ECOs are associated with greater magnitudes of large-scale upward motion, which supports stronger convection for larger sizes of ECOs. This leads to shifts toward higher values in the DC distributions of cloud-top height, albedo, condensate water path, and cloud optical depth. However, non-DC footprints become less reflective with increasing ECO size, as the longer-lived large convective systems have more time to develop thin cirrus anvils. The proportion of DC footprints remains fairly constant with size. The proportion of DC footprints also remains nearly constant with SST within a given size class, although the number of footprints per object increases with SST for large objects. As SSTs increase, there is a decrease in the proportion of updraft water that goes into detrainment, causing the non-DC distributions of albedo, condensate water path, and cloud optical depth to shift toward lower values. The all-cloud distributions of cloudtop temperature and outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) shift toward lower values as SST increases owing to the increase in convective instability with SST. Both the DC and non-DC distributions of cloud-top temperature do not change much with satellite precession cycle, supporting the fixed anvil temperature hypothesis of Hartmann and Larson. When a joint histogram is formed from the cloud-top pressures and cloud optical depths of the ECOs, it is very similar to the corresponding histogram of the deep convective weather state obtained by cluster analysis of International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project data.

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Interdisciplinary Science Program (IDS)