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Title: Observed and modeled patterns of covariability between low-level cloudiness and the structure of the trade-wind layer

Abstract

We present patterns of covariability between low-level cloudiness and the trade-wind boundary layer structure using long-term measurements at a site representative of dynamical regimes with moderate subsidence or weak ascent. We compare these with ECMWF’s Integrated Forecast System and 10 CMIP5 models. By using single-time step output at a single location, we find that models can produce a fairly realistic trade-wind layer structure in long-term means, but with unrealistic variability at shorter-time scales. The unrealistic variability in modeled cloudiness near the lifting condensation level (LCL) is due to stronger than observed relationships with mixed-layer relative humidity (RH) and temperature stratification at the mixed-layer top. Those relationships are weak in observations, or even of opposite sign, which can be explained by a negative feedback of convection on cloudiness. Cloudiness near cumulus tops at the tradewind inversion instead varies more pronouncedly in observations on monthly time scales, whereby larger cloudiness relates to larger surface winds and stronger trade-wind inversions. However, these parameters appear to be a prerequisite, rather than strong controlling factors on cloudiness, because they do not explain submonthly variations in cloudiness. Models underestimate the strength of these relationships and diverge in particular in their responses to large-scale vertical motion. Nomore » model stands out by reproducing the observed behavior in all respects. As a result, these findings suggest that climate models do not realistically represent the physical processes that underlie the coupling between trade-wind clouds and their environments in present-day climate, which is relevant for how we interpret modeled cloud feedbacks.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [3];  [3]
  1. Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg (Germany); Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA (United States)
  2. National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO (United States)
  3. European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading (United Kingdom)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
OSTI Identifier:
1243066
Grant/Contract Number:  
FC02-97ER62402
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 7; Journal Issue: 4; Journal ID: ISSN 1942-2466
Publisher:
American Geophysical Union (AGU)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
58 GEOSCIENCES

Citation Formats

Nuijens, Louise, Medeiros, Brian, Sandu, Irina, and Ahlgrimm, Maike. Observed and modeled patterns of covariability between low-level cloudiness and the structure of the trade-wind layer. United States: N. p., 2015. Web. doi:10.1002/2015MS000483.
Nuijens, Louise, Medeiros, Brian, Sandu, Irina, & Ahlgrimm, Maike. Observed and modeled patterns of covariability between low-level cloudiness and the structure of the trade-wind layer. United States. doi:10.1002/2015MS000483.
Nuijens, Louise, Medeiros, Brian, Sandu, Irina, and Ahlgrimm, Maike. Fri . "Observed and modeled patterns of covariability between low-level cloudiness and the structure of the trade-wind layer". United States. doi:10.1002/2015MS000483. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1243066.
@article{osti_1243066,
title = {Observed and modeled patterns of covariability between low-level cloudiness and the structure of the trade-wind layer},
author = {Nuijens, Louise and Medeiros, Brian and Sandu, Irina and Ahlgrimm, Maike},
abstractNote = {We present patterns of covariability between low-level cloudiness and the trade-wind boundary layer structure using long-term measurements at a site representative of dynamical regimes with moderate subsidence or weak ascent. We compare these with ECMWF’s Integrated Forecast System and 10 CMIP5 models. By using single-time step output at a single location, we find that models can produce a fairly realistic trade-wind layer structure in long-term means, but with unrealistic variability at shorter-time scales. The unrealistic variability in modeled cloudiness near the lifting condensation level (LCL) is due to stronger than observed relationships with mixed-layer relative humidity (RH) and temperature stratification at the mixed-layer top. Those relationships are weak in observations, or even of opposite sign, which can be explained by a negative feedback of convection on cloudiness. Cloudiness near cumulus tops at the tradewind inversion instead varies more pronouncedly in observations on monthly time scales, whereby larger cloudiness relates to larger surface winds and stronger trade-wind inversions. However, these parameters appear to be a prerequisite, rather than strong controlling factors on cloudiness, because they do not explain submonthly variations in cloudiness. Models underestimate the strength of these relationships and diverge in particular in their responses to large-scale vertical motion. No model stands out by reproducing the observed behavior in all respects. As a result, these findings suggest that climate models do not realistically represent the physical processes that underlie the coupling between trade-wind clouds and their environments in present-day climate, which is relevant for how we interpret modeled cloud feedbacks.},
doi = {10.1002/2015MS000483},
journal = {Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems},
number = 4,
volume = 7,
place = {United States},
year = {2015},
month = {11}
}

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