Statistical Analyses of Satellite Cloud Object Data from CERES. Part II:...

Xu, K., T. Wong, B. Wielicki, L. Parker, B. Lin, Z. A. Eitzen, and M. Branson (2007), Statistical Analyses of Satellite Cloud Object Data from CERES. Part II: Tropical Convective Cloud Objects during 1998 El Niño and Evidence for Supporting the Fixed Anvil Temperature Hypothesis, J. Climate, 20, 819-842, doi:10.1175/JCLI4069.1.

Characteristics of tropical deep convective cloud objects observed over the tropical Pacific during January–August 1998 are examined using the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission/Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System Single Scanner Footprint (SSF) data. These characteristics include the frequencies of occurrence and statistical distributions of cloud physical properties. Their variations with cloud object size, sea surface temperature (SST), and satellite precession cycle are analyzed in detail. A cloud object is defined as a contiguous patch of the earth composed of satellite footprints within a single dominant cloud-system type.

It is found that statistical distributions of cloud physical properties are significantly different among three size categories of cloud objects with equivalent diameters of 100–150 (small), 150–300 (medium), and Ͼ300 km (large), except for the distributions of ice particle size. The distributions for the larger-size category of cloud objects are more skewed toward high SSTs, high cloud tops, low cloud-top temperature, large ice water path, high cloud optical depth, low outgoing longwave (LW) radiation, and high albedo than the smaller-size category. As SST varied from one satellite precession cycle to another, the changes in macrophysical properties of cloud objects over the entire tropical Pacific were small for the large-size category of cloud objects, relative to those of the small- and medium-size categories. This evidence supports the fixed anvil temperature hypothesis of Hartmann and Larson for the large-size category. Combined with the result that a higher percentage of the large-size category of cloud objects occurs during higher SST subperiods, this implies that macrophysical properties of cloud objects would be less sensitive to further warming of the climate. On the other hand, when cloud objects are classified according to SST ranges, statistical characteristics of cloud microphysical properties, optical depth, and albedo are not sensitive to the SST, but those of cloud macrophysical properties are dependent upon the SST. This result is related to larger differences in large-scale dynamics among the SST ranges than among the satellite precession cycles. Frequency distributions of vertical velocity from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts model that is matched to each cloud object are used to further understand some of the findings in this study.

PDF of Publication: 
Download from publisher's website.
Research Program: 
Interdisciplinary Science Program (IDS)