The impact of atmospheric stability and wind shear on vertical cloud overlap over the Tibetan Plateau

Li, Jiming; Lv, Qiaoyi; Jian, Bida; Zhang, Min; Zhao, Chuanfeng; Fu, Qiang; Kawamoto, Kazuaki; Zhang, Hua

Studies have shown that changes in cloud cover are responsible for the rapid climate warming over the Tibetan Plateau (TP) in the past 3 decades. To simulate the total cloud cover, atmospheric models have to reasonably represent the characteristics of vertical overlap between cloud layers. Until now, however, this subject has received little attention due to the limited availability of observations, especially over the TP. Based on the above information, the main aim of this study is to examine the properties of cloud overlaps over the TP region and to build an empirical relationship between cloud overlap properties and large-scale atmospheric dynamics using 4 years (2007–2010) of data from the CloudSat cloud product and collocated ERA-Interim reanalysis data. To do this, the cloud overlap parameter inline-formulaα, which is an inverse exponential function of the cloud layer separation inline-formulaD and decorrelation length scale inline-formulaL, is calculated using CloudSat and is discussed. The parameters inline-formulaα and inline-formulaL are both widely used to characterize the transition from the maximum to random overlap assumption with increasing layer separations. For those non-adjacent layers without clear sky between them (that is, contiguous cloud layers), it is found that the overlap parameter inline-formulaα is sensitive to the unique thermodynamic and dynamic environment over the TP, i.e., the unstable atmospheric stratification and corresponding weak wind shear, which leads to maximum overlap (that is, greater inline-formulaα values). This finding agrees well with the previous studies. Finally, we parameterize the decorrelation length scale inline-formulaL as a function of the wind shear and atmospheric stability based on a multiple linear regression. Compared with previous parameterizations, this new scheme can improve the simulation of total cloud cover over the TP when the separations between cloud layers are greater than 1 km. This study thus suggests that the effects of both wind shear and atmospheric stability on cloud overlap should be taken into account in the parameterization of decorrelation length scale inline-formulaL in order to further improve the calculation of the radiative budget and the prediction of climate change over the TP in the atmospheric models.

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Li, Jiming / Lv, Qiaoyi / Jian, Bida / et al: The impact of atmospheric stability and wind shear on vertical cloud overlap over the Tibetan Plateau. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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