A three-year climatology of cloud-top phase over the Southern Ocean and North Pacific

Anthony Morrison, Steven Siems, Michael Manton

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Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Level 2 observations from the Terra satellite are used to create a 3-yr climatology of cloud-top phase over a section of the Southern Ocean (south of Australia) and the North Pacific Ocean. The intent is to highlight the extensive presence of supercooled liquid water over the Southern Ocean region, particularly during summer. The phase of such clouds directly affects the absorbed shortwave radiation, which has recently been found to be poorly simulated in both state-of-the-art reanalysis and coupled global climate models (Trenberth and Fasullo). The climatology finds that supercooled liquid water is present year-round in the low-altitude clouds across this section of the Southern Ocean. Further, the MODIS cloud phase algorithm identifies very few glaciated cloud tops at temperatures above -20 degrees C, rather inferring a large portion of uncertain cloud tops. Between 50 and 60 degrees S during the summer, the albedo effect is compounded by a seasonal reduction in high-level cirrus. This is in direct contrast to the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. Here MODIS finds a higher likelihood of observing warm liquid water clouds during summer and a reduction in the relative frequency of cloud tops within the 0 degrees to 20 degrees C temperature range. As the MODIS cloud phase product has limited ability to confidently identify cloud-top phase between -5 degrees and -25 degrees C, future research should include observations from the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) and other space-based sensors to help with the classification within this temperature range. Further, multiregion in situ verification of any remotely sensed observations is vital to further understanding the cloud phase processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2405 - 2418
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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