Geophysical Research Letters

Geographically versus dynamically defined boundary layer cloud regimes and their use to evaluate general circulation model cloud parameterizations


Corresponding author: C. C.W. Nam, University of Leipzig, Vor dem Hospitaltore 1, 04103 Leipzig, Germany. (


[1] Regimes of tropical low-level clouds are commonly identified according to large-scale subsidence and lower tropospheric stability (LTS). This definition alone is insufficient for the distinction between regimes and limits the comparison of low-level clouds from CloudSat radar observations and the ECHAM5 GCM run with the COSP radar simulator. Comparisons of CloudSat radar cloud altitude-reflectivity histograms for stratocumulus and shallow cumulus regimes, as defined above, show nearly identical reflectivity profiles, because the distinction between the two regimes is dependent upon atmospheric stability below 700 hPa and observations above 1.5 km. Regional subsets, near California and Hawaii, for example, have large differences in reflectivity profiles than the dynamically defined domain; indicating different reflectivity profiles exist under a given large-scale environment. Regional subsets are better for the evaluation of low-level clouds in CloudSat and ECHAM5 as there is less contamination between 2.5 km and 7.5 km from precipitating hydrometeors which obscured cloud reflectivities.