Directly measured heating rates of a tropical subvisible cirrus cloud

Bucholtz, A., D. Hlavka, M. McGill, S. Schmidt, P. Pilewskie, S. Davis, E. A. Reid, and A. L. Walker (2010), Directly measured heating rates of a tropical subvisible cirrus cloud, J. Geophys. Res., 115, D00J09, doi:10.1029/2009JD013128.

We present the first direct measurements of the infrared and solar heating rates of a tropical subvisible cirrus (SVC) cloud sampled off the east coast of Nicaragua on 25 July 2007 by the NASA ER‐2 aircraft during the Tropical Composition, Cloud and Climate Coupling Experiment (TC4). On this day a persistent thin cirrus layer, with mostly clear skies underneath, was detected in real time by the cloud lidar on the ER‐2, and the aircraft was directed to profile down through the SVC. Measurements of the net broadband infrared irradiance and spectrally integrated solar irradiance above, below, and through the SVC are used to determine the infrared and solar heating rates of the cloud. The lidar measurements show that the variable SVC layer was located between ∼13 and 15 km. Its midvisible optical depth varied from 0.01 to 0.10 with a mean of 0.034 ± 0.033. Its depolarization ratio was approximately 0.4, indicative of ice clouds. From the divergence of the measured net irradiances the infrared heating rate of the SVC was determined to be ∼2.50–3.24 K d−1 and the solar heating rate was found to be negligible. These values are consistent with previous indirect observations of other SVC and with model‐generated heating rates of SVC with similar optical depths. This study illustrates the utility and potential of the profiling sampling strategy employed here. A more fully instrumented high‐altitude aircraft that also included in situ cloud and aerosol probes would provide a comprehensive data set for characterizing both the radiative and microphysical properties of these ubiquitous tropical clouds.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)