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Evaluation of ERA-Interim and MERRA Cloudiness in the Southern Ocean

Naud, C. M., J. F. Booth, and A. Del Genio (2014), Evaluation of ERA-Interim and MERRA Cloudiness in the Southern Ocean, J. Climate, 27, 2109-2124, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00432.1.

The Southern Ocean cloud cover modeled by the Interim ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) and ModernEra Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) reanalyses are compared against Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Multiangle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR) observations. ERA-Interim monthly mean cloud amounts match the observations within 5%, while MERRA significantly underestimates the cloud amount. For a compositing analysis of clouds in warm season extratropical cyclones, both reanalyses show a low bias in cloud cover. They display a larger bias to the west of the cyclones in the region of subsidence behind the cold fronts. This low bias is larger for MERRA than for ERAInterim. Both MODIS and MISR retrievals indicate that the clouds in this sector are at a low altitude, often composed of liquid, and of a broken nature. The combined CloudSat–Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) cloud profiles confirm these passive observations, but they also reveal that low-level clouds in other parts of the cyclones are also not properly represented in the reanalyses. The two reanalyses are in fairly good agreement for the dynamic and thermodynamic characteristics of the cyclones, suggesting that the cloud, convection, or boundary layer schemes are the problem instead. An examination of the lower-tropospheric stability distribution in the cyclones from both reanalyses suggests that the parameterization of shallow cumulus clouds may contribute in a large part to the problem. However, the differences in the cloud schemes and in particular in the precipitation processes, which may also contribute, cannot be excluded.

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