Vertical Structures of Anvil Clouds of Tropical Mesoscale Convective Systems...

Yuan, J., R. Houze, and A. Heymsfield (2011), Vertical Structures of Anvil Clouds of Tropical Mesoscale Convective Systems Observed by CloudSat, J. Atmos. Sci., 68, 1653-1674, doi:10.1175/2011JAS3687.1.

A global study of the vertical structures of the clouds of tropical mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) has been carried out with data from the CloudSat Cloud Profiling Radar. Tropical MCSs are found to be dominated by cloud-top heights greater than 10 km. Secondary cloud layers sometimes occur in MCSs, but outside their primary raining cores. The secondary layers have tops at 6–8 and 1–3 km. High-topped clouds extend outward from raining cores of MCSs to form anvil clouds. Closest to the raining cores, the anvils tend to have broader distributions of reflectivity at all levels, with the modal values at higher reflectivity in their lower levels. Portions of anvil clouds far away from the raining core are thin and have narrow frequency distributions of reflectivity at all levels with overall weaker values. This difference likely reflects ice particle fallout and therefore cloud age. Reflectivity histograms of MCS anvil clouds vary little across the tropics, except that (i) in continental MCS anvils, broader distributions of reflectivity occur at the uppermost levels in the portions closest to active raining areas; (ii) the frequency of occurrence of stronger reflectivity in the upper part of anvils decreases faster with increasing distance in continental MCSs; and (iii) narrower-peaked ridges are prominent in reflectivity histograms of thick anvil clouds close to the raining areas of connected MCSs (superclusters). These global results are consistent with observations at ground sites and aircraft data. They present a comprehensive test dataset for models aiming to simulate process-based upper-level cloud structure around the tropics.

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