skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: A Gridded Climatology of Clouds over Land (1971-1996) and Ocean (1954-2008) from Surface Observations Worldwide (NDP-026E)*

Abstract

Surface synoptic weather reports from ships and land stations worldwide were processed to produce a global cloud climatology which includes: total cloud cover, the amount and frequency of occurrence of nine cloud types within three levels of the troposphere, the frequency of occurrence of clear sky and of precipitation, the base heights of low clouds, and the non-overlapped amounts of middle and high clouds. Synoptic weather reports are made every three hours; the cloud information in a report is obtained visually by human observers. The reports used here cover the period 1971-96 for land and 1954-2008 for ocean. This digital archive provides multi-year monthly, seasonal, and annual averages in 5x5-degree grid boxes (or 10x10-degree boxes for some quantities over the ocean). Daytime and nighttime averages, as well as the diurnal average (average of day and night), are given. Nighttime averages were computed using only those reports that met an "illuminance criterion" (i.e., made under adequate moonlight or twilight), thus minimizing the "night-detection bias" and making possible the determination of diurnal cycles and nighttime trends for cloud types. The phase and amplitude of the first harmonic of both the diurnal cycle and the annual cycle are given for the various cloudmore » types. Cloud averages for individual years are also given for the ocean for each of 4 seasons, and for each of the 12 months (daytime-only averages for the months). [Individual years for land are not gridded, but are given for individual stations in a companion data set, CDIAC's NDP-026D).] This analysis used 185 million reports from 5388 weather stations on continents and islands, and 50 million reports from ships; these reports passed a series of quality-control checks. This analysis updates (and in most ways supercedes) the previous cloud climatology constructed by the authors in the 1980s. Many of the long-term averages described here are mapped on the University of Washington, Department of Atmospheric Sciences Web site. The Online Cloud Atlas containing NDP-026E data is available via the University of Washington.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [2]
  1. University of Arizona
  2. University of Washington
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
OSTI Identifier:
1394933
Report Number(s):
NDP-026E
Resource Type:
Data
Data Type:
Numeric Data
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES

Citation Formats

Hahn, C. J., and Warren, S. G.. A Gridded Climatology of Clouds over Land (1971-1996) and Ocean (1954-2008) from Surface Observations Worldwide (NDP-026E)*. United States: N. p., 2007. Web. doi:10.3334/CDIAC/cli.ndp026e.
Hahn, C. J., & Warren, S. G.. A Gridded Climatology of Clouds over Land (1971-1996) and Ocean (1954-2008) from Surface Observations Worldwide (NDP-026E)*. United States. doi:10.3334/CDIAC/cli.ndp026e.
Hahn, C. J., and Warren, S. G.. Mon . "A Gridded Climatology of Clouds over Land (1971-1996) and Ocean (1954-2008) from Surface Observations Worldwide (NDP-026E)*". United States. doi:10.3334/CDIAC/cli.ndp026e. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1394933.
@article{osti_1394933,
title = {A Gridded Climatology of Clouds over Land (1971-1996) and Ocean (1954-2008) from Surface Observations Worldwide (NDP-026E)*},
author = {Hahn, C. J. and Warren, S. G.},
abstractNote = {Surface synoptic weather reports from ships and land stations worldwide were processed to produce a global cloud climatology which includes: total cloud cover, the amount and frequency of occurrence of nine cloud types within three levels of the troposphere, the frequency of occurrence of clear sky and of precipitation, the base heights of low clouds, and the non-overlapped amounts of middle and high clouds. Synoptic weather reports are made every three hours; the cloud information in a report is obtained visually by human observers. The reports used here cover the period 1971-96 for land and 1954-2008 for ocean. This digital archive provides multi-year monthly, seasonal, and annual averages in 5x5-degree grid boxes (or 10x10-degree boxes for some quantities over the ocean). Daytime and nighttime averages, as well as the diurnal average (average of day and night), are given. Nighttime averages were computed using only those reports that met an "illuminance criterion" (i.e., made under adequate moonlight or twilight), thus minimizing the "night-detection bias" and making possible the determination of diurnal cycles and nighttime trends for cloud types. The phase and amplitude of the first harmonic of both the diurnal cycle and the annual cycle are given for the various cloud types. Cloud averages for individual years are also given for the ocean for each of 4 seasons, and for each of the 12 months (daytime-only averages for the months). [Individual years for land are not gridded, but are given for individual stations in a companion data set, CDIAC's NDP-026D).] This analysis used 185 million reports from 5388 weather stations on continents and islands, and 50 million reports from ships; these reports passed a series of quality-control checks. This analysis updates (and in most ways supercedes) the previous cloud climatology constructed by the authors in the 1980s. Many of the long-term averages described here are mapped on the University of Washington, Department of Atmospheric Sciences Web site. The Online Cloud Atlas containing NDP-026E data is available via the University of Washington.},
doi = {10.3334/CDIAC/cli.ndp026e},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 EST 2007},
month = {Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 EST 2007}
}

Dataset:

Save / Share:
  • Surface synoptic weather reports for 39 years have been processed to provide a climatology of clouds for each of over 5000 land-based weather stations with long periods of record both day and night. For each station, this digital archive includes: multi-year annual, seasonal and monthly averages for day and night separately; seasonal and monthly averages by year; averages for eight times per day; and analyses of the first harmonic for the annual and diurnal cycles. Averages are given for total cloud cover, clear-sky frequency, and 9 cloud types: 5 in the low level (fog, St, Sc, Cu, Cb), 3 inmore » the middle level (Ns, As, Ac) and one in the high level (all cirriform clouds combined). Cloud amounts and frequencies of occurrence are given for all types. In addition, non-overlapped amounts are given for middle and high cloud types, and average base heights are given for low cloud types. Nighttime averages were obtained by using only those reports that met an "illuminance criterion" (i.e., made under adequate moonlight or twilight), thus making possible the determination of diurnal cycles and nighttime trends for cloud types.The authors have also produced an online, gridded atlas of the cloud observations contained in NDP-026D. The Online Cloud Atlas containing NDP-026D data is available via the University of Washington.« less
  • With some data from as early as 1930, global long-term monthly and/or seasonal total cloud cover, cloud type amounts and frequencies of occurrence, low cloud base heights, harmonic analyses of annual and diurnal cycles, interannual variations and trends, and cloud type co-occurrences have been compiled and presented in two atlases (Warren et al. 1988, 1990). These data were derived from land and ship synoptic weather reports from the "SPOT" archive of the Fleet Numerical Oceanography Center (FNOC) and from Release 1 of the Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set (COADS) for the years 1930-1979. The data are in 12 files (one containingmore » latitude, longitude, land-fraction, and number of land stations for grid boxes; four containing total cloud, cloud types, harmonic analyses, and interannual variations and trends for land; four containing total cloud, cloud types, harmonic analyses, and interannual variations and trends for oceans; one containing first cloud analyses for the first year of the GARP Global Experiment (FGGE); one containing cloud-type co-occurrences for land and oceans; and one containing a FORTRAN program to read and produce maps).« less
  • Routine, synoptic surface weather reports from ships and land stations over the entire globe, for the10-year period December 1981 through November 1991, were processed for total cloud cover and the frequencies of occurrence of clear sky, sky-obscured due to precipitation, and sky-obscured due to fog. Archived data, consisting of various annual, seasonal and monthly averages, are provided in grid boxes that are typically 2.5° × 2.5° for land and 5° × 5° for ocean. Day and nighttime averages are also given separately for each season. Several derived quantities, such as interannual variations and annual and diurnal harmonics, are provided asmore » well. This data set incorporates an improved representation of nighttime cloudiness by utilizing only those nighttime observations for which the illuminance due to moonlight exceeds a specified threshold. This reduction in the night-detection bias increases the computed global average total cloud cover by about 2%. The impact on computed diurnal cycles is even greater, particularly over the oceans where it is found (in contrast to previous surface-based climatologies), that cloudiness is often greater at night than during the day.« less
  • Surface synoptic weather reports for the entire globe for the 10-year period from December 1981 through November 1991 have been processed, edited, and rewritten to provide a data set designed for use in cloud analyses. The information in these reports relating to clouds, including the present weather information, was extracted and put through a series of quality control checks. Reports not meeting certain quality control standards were rejected, as were reports from buoys and automatic weather stations. Correctable inconsistencies within reports were edited for consistency, so that the "edited cloud report" can be used for cloud analysis without further qualitymore » checking. Cases of "sky obscured" were interpreted by reference to the present weather code as to whether they indicated fog, rain or snow and were given appropriate cloud type designations. Nimbostratus clouds, which are not specifically coded for in the standard synoptic code, were also given a special designation. Changes made to an original report are indicated in the edited report so that the original report can be reconstructed if desired. While low cloud amount is normally given directly in the synoptic report, the edited cloud report also includes the amounts, either directly reported or inferred, of middle and high clouds, both the non-overlapped amounts and the "actual" amounts (which may be overlapped). Since illumination from the moon is important for the adequate detection of clouds at night, both the relative lunar illuminance and the solar altitude are given, as well as a parameter that indicates whether our recommended illuminance criterion was satisfied. This data set contains 124 million reports from land stations and 15 million reports from ships. Each report is 56 characters in length. The archive consists of 240 files, one file for each month of data for land and ocean separately. With this data set a user can develop a climatology for any particular cloud type or group of types, for any geographical region and any spatial and temporal resolution desired.« less
  • This database contains surface synoptic weather reports for the entire globe, gathered from various available data sets. The reports were processed, edited, and rewritten to provide a single dataset of individual observations of clouds, spanning the 57 years 1952-2008 for ship data and the 39 years 1971-2009 for land station data. In addition to the cloud portion of the synoptic report, each edited report also includes the associated pressure, present weather, wind, air temperature, and dew point (and sea surface temperature over oceans). This data set is called the "Extended Edited Cloud Report Archive" (EECRA). The EECRA is based solelymore » on visual cloud observations from weather stations, reported in the WMO synoptic code (WMO, 1974). Reports must contain cloud-type information to be included in the archive. Past data sources include those from the Fleet Numerical Oceanographic Center (FNOC, 1971-1976) and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP, 1977-1996). This update uses data from a new source, the 'Integrated Surface Database' (ISD, 1997-2009; Smith et al., 2011). Our past analyses of the EECRA identified a subset of 5388 weather stations that were determined to produce reliable day and night observations of cloud amount and type. The update contains observations only from this subset of stations. Details concerning processing, previous problems, contents, and comments are available in the archive's original documentation . The EECRA contains about 81 million cloud observations from ships and 380 million from land stations. The data files have been compressed using unix. Unix/linux users can "uncompress" or "gunzip" the files after downloading. If you're interested in the NDP-026C database, then you'll also want to explore its related data products, NDP-026D and NDP-026E.« less