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Responses of Tropical Ocean Clouds and Precipitation to the Large-Scale...

Wong, S., A. Del Genio, T. Wang, B. Kahn, E. J. Fetzer, and T. L'Ecuyer (2016), Responses of Tropical Ocean Clouds and Precipitation to the Large-Scale Circulation: Atmospheric-Water-Budget-Related Phase Space and Dynamical Regimes, J. Climate, 29, 7127-7143, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-15-0712.1.

An atmospheric-water-budget-related phase space is constructed with the tendency terms related to dynamical convergence (QCON [ 2Q=  V) and moisture advection (QADV [ 2V  =Q) in the water budget equation. Over the tropical oceans, QCON accounts for large-scale dynamical conditions related to conditional instability, and QADV accounts for conditions related to lower-tropospheric moisture gradient. Two reanalysis products [MERRA and ERA-Interim (ERAi)] are used to calculate QCON and QADV. Using the phase space as a reference frame, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) cloud-top pressure (CTP) and cloud optical depth (COD) are used to evaluate simulated clouds in the GISS-E2 general circulation model. In regimes of divergence over the tropical oceans, moist advection yields frequent high- to midlevel medium-thickness to thick clouds associated with moderate stratiform precipitation, while dry advection yields low-level thin clouds associated with shallow convection with lowered cloud tops. In regimes with convergence, moist and dry advection modulate the relative abundance of high-level thick clouds and low-level thin to medium-thickness clouds. GISS-E2 qualitatively reproduces the cloud property dependence on moisture budget tendencies in regimes of convergence but with larger COD compared to MODIS. Lowlevel thick clouds in GISS-E2 are the most frequent in regimes of near-zero convergence and moist advection instead of those of large-scale divergence. Compared to the Global Precipitation Climatology Project product, MERRA, ERAi, and GISS-E2 have more rain in regimes with deep convection and less rain in regimes with shallow convection.

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Modeling Analysis and Prediction Program (MAP)
Global Precipitation Measurement