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Title: Patterns of Diurnal Marine Stratocumulus Cloud Fraction Variability

The spatial patterns of subtropical marine stratocumulus cloud fraction variability on diurnal time scales are examined using high temporal resolution cloud masks based on 30-min 4 km x 4 km geosynchronous IR data for the period 2003-2010. This data set permits comparison of low cloud fraction variability characteristics among the three marine stratocumulus regions in the southeast Pacific, southeast Atlantic and northeast Pacific. In all three regions, the largest diurnal cycles and earliest time of cloud break up occur on the edges of the cloud field where cloud fractions are in general lower. During the peak season of cloudiness in the southeast Pacific and southeast Atlantic the amplitude of the diurnal cycle on the edges of the cloud deck was greater than 40%, more than double the value found in the center of each cloud deck. The rate at which the cloud breaks up during the day is closely tied to starting cloud fraction at dawn and the shortwave radiative flux. The maximum rate of cloud breakup occurs near 1200 LT. Cloud fraction begins to increase at 1600 LT (before the sun sets) and reaches its maximum value just before dawn. The diurnal cycle characteristics of the southeast Pacific andmore » southeast Atlantic marine stratocumulus cloud decks are more similar to each other than to those in the northeast Pacific. The northeast Pacific cloud deck has weaker diurnal variation, slower rates of cloud breakup during the day for a given cloud fraction at dawn, and higher probabilities for cloud break up overnight.« less
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 54(4):847–866
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
spatial patterns; subtropical; marine stratocumulus; cloud fraction; variability