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New insights about cloud vertical structure from CloudSat and CALIPSO...

Oreopoulos, L., N. Cho, and D. Lee (2017), New insights about cloud vertical structure from CloudSat and CALIPSO observations, J. Geophys. Res., 122, doi:10.1002/2017JD026629.

Active cloud observations from A-Train’s CloudSat and CALIPSO satellites offer new opportunities to examine the vertical structure of hydrometeor layers. We use the 2B-CLDCLASS-LIDAR merged CloudSat-CALIPSO product to examine global aspects of hydrometeor vertical stratification. We group the data into major cloud vertical structure (CVS) classes based on our interpretation of how clouds in three standard atmospheric layers overlap and provide their global frequency of occurrence. The two most frequent CVS classes are single-layer (per our definition) low and high clouds that represent ~53% of cloudy skies, followed by high clouds overlying low clouds, and vertically extensive clouds that occupy near-contiguously a large portion of the troposphere. The prevalence of these configurations changes seasonally and geographically, between daytime and nighttime, and between continents and oceans. The radiative effects of the CVS classes reveal the major radiative warmers and coolers from the perspective of the planet as a whole, the surface, and the atmosphere. Single-layer low clouds dominate planetary and atmospheric cooling and thermal infrared surface warming. We also investigate the consistency between passive and active views of clouds by providing the CVS breakdowns of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer cloud regimes for spatiotemporally coincident MODIS-Aqua (also on the A-Train) and CloudSat-CALIPSO daytime observations. When the analysis is expanded for a more in-depth look at the most heterogeneous of the MODIS cloud regimes, it ultimately confirms previous interpretations of their makeup that did not have the benefit of collocated active observations. Plain Language Summary We use observations from so-called “active” sensors (satellite instruments emitting pulses of radiation toward Earth) in order to derive, classify, and understand how clouds are stratified vertically in the atmosphere. The stratification is important for the Earth’s energy budget. We show how the various major cloud vertical structures affect the propagation of solar and thermal radiation. We also examine the composition of recurring cloud systems observed from so-called “passive” sensors (satellite instruments receiving from the Earth naturally reflected or emitted radiation) in terms of the cloud vertical configurations they contain.

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Research Program: 
Modeling Analysis and Prediction Program (MAP)
Radiation Science Program (RSP)