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An examination of the nature of global MODIS cloud regimes

Oreopoulos, L., N. Cho, D. Lee, S. Kato, and G. J. Huffman (2014), An examination of the nature of global MODIS cloud regimes, J. Geophys. Res., 119, 8362-8383, doi:10.1002/2013JD021409.

We introduce global cloud regimes (previously also referred to as “weather states”) derived from cloud retrievals that use measurements by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument aboard the Aqua and Terra satellites. The regimes are obtained by applying clustering analysis on joint histograms of retrieved cloud top pressure and cloud optical thickness. By employing a compositing approach on data sets from satellites and other sources, we examine regime structural and thermodynamical characteristics. We establish that the MODIS cloud regimes tend to form in distinct dynamical and thermodynamical environments and have diverse profiles of cloud fraction and water content. When compositing radiative fluxes from the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System instrument and surface precipitation from the Global Precipitation Climatology Project, we find that regimes with a radiative warming effect on the atmosphere also produce the largest implied latent heat. Taken as a whole, the results of the study corroborate the usefulness of the cloud regime concept, reaffirm the fundamental nature of the regimes as appropriate building blocks for cloud system classification, clarify their association with standard cloud types, and underscore their distinct radiative and hydrological signatures.

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Research Program: 
Energy & Water Cycle Program (EWCP)
Modeling Analysis and Prediction Program (MAP)
Radiation Science Program (RSP)