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Title: A Comparison of Multiscale Variations of Decade-long Cloud Fractions from Six Different Platforms over the Southern Great Plains in the United States

This study investigates 1997-2011 observationally based cloud fraction estimates from different platforms over the Southern Great Plains, United States, including three ground-based estimates and three satellite-based estimates at multiple temporal and spatial scales. They are: 1) the Active Remotely Sensed Clouds Locations (ARSCL); 2) the Total Sky Imager (TSI); 3) the Radiative Flux Analysis (RFA); 4) Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES); 5) the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP); and 6) Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer Pathfinder Atmospheres Extended (PATMOS-x). A substantial disagreement is evident among different estimates, especially for ISCCP and ARSCL with statistically significant larger cloud fractions than the other estimates. For example, ISCCP and ARSCL mean cloud fractions in January are ~21% and 8% larger than the average from all the other estimates, respectively. Three estimates (ISCCP, ARSCL, GOES) exhibit an 8%-10% overall increase in the annually averaged cloud fractions from 1998 to 2009; the other three estimates (TSI, RFA, and PATMOS-x) exhibit no significant tendency of increase in this decade. Monthly cloud fractions from all the estimates exhibit Gaussian-like distributions while the distributions of daily cloud fractions are dependent on spatial scales. Investigations of high-resolution cloud fractions reveal that the differences stem from the inconsistent definitionsmore » of cloud fraction. Findings from this study suggest caution when using observationally based cloud fraction estimates for climate studies, highlighting that the consistency in defining cloud fraction between models and observations is crucial for studying the Earth’s climate.« less
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Journal of Geophysical Research. D. (Atmospheres), 119(6):3438-3459
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
cloud; fraction; southern; great; plains; platforms; 1997-2011