Comparison of methods to determine Tropical Tropopause Layer cirrus formation...

Riihimaki, L. D., S. A. McFarlane, C. Liang, S. Massie, N. Beagley, and T. D. Toth (2012), Comparison of methods to determine Tropical Tropopause Layer cirrus formation mechanisms, J. Geophys. Res., 117, D06218, doi:10.1029/2011JD016832.

A new method of estimating Tropical Tropopause Layer Cirrus (TTLC) formation mechanism (object method) is compared to interpretations of formation from previous studies using back trajectory calculations matched to convection identified from satellites and statistical relationships of TTLC with temperature and water vapor. The object method groups neighboring Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) TTLC cloud profiles into cloud objects and classifies them as convective (35% of TTLC) if they are directly attached to a convective cloud along the CALIPSO track. The percentage of back trajectory calculations that intersect convection (39–95% of TTLC within 5 days) depends strongly on the spatial and temporal resolution of the convection data set, and the manner in which deep convection is identified. Using minimum brightness temperature in 3 hourly, 1 resolution grid boxes to define convection, 46% of non-convective TTLC (37% of all TTLC) did not trace back to convection within 24 h. Back trajectory calculations of thin cirrus identified by the High Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder (HIRDLS) gave similar results. Temperature is not a good proxy for formation mechanism as convective and non-convective TTLC frequencies both increase monotonically with decreasing temperature at approximately the same rate. Non-convective TTLC frequencies have a stronger relationship with relative humidity than convective TTLC frequencies, though are not sufficiently different to distinguish object method categories. A decrease in TTL cirrus frequency found at low temperatures in previous studies is caused by insufficient variability in reanalysis temperature data and is not indicative of TTLC formation mechanism.

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Upper Atmosphere Research Program (UARP)