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Satellite Observed Sensitivity of Tropical Clouds and Moisture to Sea Surface Temperature on Various Time and Space Scales: Part 1. Focus on High Level Cloud Situations over Ocean

Abstract : This study examines variations in high cloud properties and relative humidity (RH) with sea surface temperature (SST) over tropical oceans (30°N-30°S) using spaceborne lidar and microwave radiometer observations. The mean values over the tropics indicate that middle-tropospheric RH increases, high cloud covers decrease and cloud altitudes rise with SST. These signatures are consistent with the hypotheses proposed in the literature. The analysis of this same dataset but at the scale of local processes shows different behaviors for SSTs<302K and SSTs>302K. Between 299 and 302K, middle-tropospheric RH, opaque cloud cover and cloud top altitude increase together with SST, while optically thin cloud cover decreases. Over SSTs>302K, middle-tropospheric RH, opaque cloud cover, and opaque cloud top altitude decrease with SST, while the cover of optically thin clouds increases. Interestingly, the altitude of high clouds (not the cloud top) increases monotonically with SST from 299 to 305K on a range of space and time scales, and the altitude of optically thin clouds remains higher than that of opaque clouds. The observed relationships on different time and space scales are compared to simulations of a global atmospheric model. Despite systematic biases, the model reproduces the sensitivity of the middle-tropospheric RH and cloud altitude to SST rather well but fails to reproduce the variations of the balance between high opaque cloud cover and high optically thin cloud cover.
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Submitted on : Thursday, August 18, 2022 - 8:10:52 AM
Last modification on : Friday, August 19, 2022 - 3:45:16 AM

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Erik Höjgard‐olsen, Hélène Chepfer, Hélène Brogniez. Satellite Observed Sensitivity of Tropical Clouds and Moisture to Sea Surface Temperature on Various Time and Space Scales: Part 1. Focus on High Level Cloud Situations over Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, American Geophysical Union, 2022, 127 (6), pp.e2021JD035438. ⟨10.1029/2021JD035438⟩. ⟨insu-03584312⟩

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