Characterizing Observed Midtopped Cloud Regimes Associated with Southern Ocean...

Mason, S., C. Jakob, A. Protat, and J. Delanoë (2014), Characterizing Observed Midtopped Cloud Regimes Associated with Southern Ocean Shortwave Radiation Biases, J. Climate, 27, 6189, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00139.1.

Clouds strongly affect the absorption and reflection of shortwave and longwave radiation in the atmosphere. A key bias in climate models is related to excess absorbed shortwave radiation in the high-latitude Southern Ocean. Model evaluation studies attribute these biases in part to midtopped clouds, and observations confirm significant midtopped clouds in the zone of interest. However, it is not yet clear what cloud properties can be attributed to the deficit in modeled clouds. Present approaches using observed cloud regimes do not sufficiently differentiate between potentially distinct types of midtopped clouds and their meteorological contexts.

This study presents a refined set of midtopped cloud subregimes for the high-latitude Southern Ocean, which are distinct in their dynamical and thermodynamic background states. Active satellite observations from CloudSat and Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) are used to study the macrophysical structure and microphysical properties of the new cloud regimes. The subgrid-scale variability of cloud structure and microphysics is quantified within the cloud regimes by identifying representative physical cloud profiles at high resolution from the radar–lidar (DARDAR) cloud classification mask.

The midtopped cloud subregimes distinguish between stratiform clouds under a high inversion and moderate subsidence; an optically thin cold-air advection cloud regime occurring under weak subsidence and including altostratus over low clouds; optically thick clouds with frequent deep structures under weak ascent and warm midlevel anomalies; and a midlevel convective cloud regime associated with strong ascent and warm advection. The new midtopped cloud regimes for the high-latitude Southern Ocean will provide a refined tool for model evaluation and the attribution of shortwave radiation biases to distinct cloud processes and properties.

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