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An analysis of cloud overlap at a midlatitude atmospheric observation facility

Oreopoulos, L., and P. M. Norris (2011), An analysis of cloud overlap at a midlatitude atmospheric observation facility, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 5557-5567, doi:10.5194/acp-11-5557-2011.

An analysis of cloud overlap based on high temporal and vertical resolution retrievals of cloud condensate from a suite of ground instruments is performed at a mid-latitude atmospheric observation facility. Two facets of overlap are investigated: cloud fraction overlap, expressed in terms of a parameter “α” indicating the relative contributions of maximum and random overlap, and overlap of horizontal distributions of condensate, expressed in terms of the correlation coefficient of condensate ranks. The degree of proximity to the random and maximum overlap assumptions is also expressed in terms of a decorrelation length, a convenient scalar parameter for overlap parameters assumed to decay exponentially with separation distance. Both cloud fraction overlap and condensate overlap show significant seasonal variations with a clear tendency for more maximum overlap in the summer months. More maximum overlap is also generally observed when the domain size used to define cloud fractions increases. These tendencies also exist for rank correlations, but are significantly weaker. Hitherto unexplored overlap parameter dependencies are investigated by analyzing mean parameter differences at fixed separation distance within different layers of the atmospheric column, and by searching for possible systematic relationships between alpha and rank correlation. We find that for the same separation distance the overlap parameters are significantly distinct in different atmospheric layers, and that random cloud fraction overlap is usually associated with more randomly overlapped condensate ranks.

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