Major characteristics of Southern Ocean cloud regimes and their effects on the energy budget

John Haynes, Christian Jakob, William Rossow, George Tselioudis, Josephine Brown

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109 Citations (Scopus)


Clouds over the Southern Ocean are often poorly represented by climate models, but they make a significant contribution to the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) radiation balance, particularly in the shortwave portion of the energy spectrum. This study seeks to better quantify the organization and structure of Southern Hemisphere midlatitude clouds by combining measurements from active and passive satellite-based datasets. Geostationary and polar-orbiter satellite data from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) are used to quantify large-scale, recurring modes of cloudiness, and active observations from CloudSat and Clouda??Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) are used to examine vertical structure, radiative heating rates, and precipitation associated with these clouds. It is found that cloud systems are organized into eight distinct regimes and that ISCCP overestimates the midlevel cloudiness of these regimes. All regimes contain a relatively high occurrence of low cloud, with 79 of all cloud layers observed having tops below 3 km, but multiple-layered clouds systems are present in approximately 34 of observed cloud profiles. The spatial distribution of regimes varies according to season, with cloud systems being geometrically thicker, on average, during the austral winter. Those regimes found to be most closely associated with midlatitude cyclones produce precipitation the most frequently, although drizzle is extremely common in low-cloud regimes. The regimes associated with cyclones have the highest in-regime shortwave cloud radiative effect at the TOA, but the low-cloud regimes, by virtue of their high frequency of occurrence over the oceans, dominate both TOA and surface shortwave effects in this region as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5061 - 5080
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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