The tropics have been recognized as a source of climate variability at a number of temporal and spatial scales [Hoerling et al., 2001; Selten et al., 2004; Deser et al. 2004]. Diabatic heating associated with clouds and precipitation in tropical convective systems is a key component that drives the variation of the large-scale circulation. The vertical shape of the diabatic heating largely depends on the precipitation and cloud types (Houze, 1982, 1989), and the large-scale circulation is sensitive to variations in the vertical heating structure and its geographical distribution [e.g., Geisler, 1981; Hartmann et al., 1984; Sui and Lau, 1989; Wu et al., 2000; Schumacher et al., 2004]. As such, it is useful to delineate the heating associated with each cloud type to better understand their dynamical impact.
 Diabatic heating is composed of latent and radiative components [although vertical eddy transports of sensible heat are another relevant component when considering large grid sizes]. Schumacher et al.  tested the large-scale response to the latent heating distribution associated with varying fractions of stratiform rain. Their work indicated that the geographically varying top-heavy latent heating profile associated with higher stratiform rain fractions resulted in a more realistic upper-level circulation response in an idealized climate model.
 Previous modeling work also highlighted the importance of elevated heating associated with the radiative impact of mid- to upper tropospheric cloud on the large-scale tropical circulation. Ramaswamy and Ramanathan  focused on the impact of the absorption of solar radiation by cirrus clouds on the thermal structure of the tropical atmosphere (i.e., upper level warming), while Slingo and Slingo  and Randall et al.  examined the impact of longwave absorption of upper level clouds on the general circulation (which leads to increased precipitation in the tropics, among other impacts). Sherwood et al.  studied the combined shortwave and longwave radiative impact of clouds above 600 hPa and found large-scale circulation responses similar to previous studies, including the weakening of the Hadley and Walker circulations when upper level clouds were excluded from their model simulations. Lohmann and Roeckner  showed that the radiative warming by upper level clouds is similar to the impacts of increased sea surface temperatures and that cirrus clouds increase the climate sensitivity of their model, especially through radiative-convective-dynamical coupling. Zender and Kiehl  further highlighted the sensitivity of climate to anvil by comparing the diagnostic and prognostic anvil formulations and found a stronger tropical circulation with the prognostic anvil paramerterizations. Each of these studies used global climate models (GCMs) capable of radiative-convective feedbacks to modify cloud radiative properties and examine the resulting large-scale response. However, their heating structures were fully model dependent, and the vertical profiles of heating varied among studies (e.g., the longwave atmospheric cloud radiative forcing profiles in the studies by Slingo and Slingo  and Randall et al.  exhibited different signs above 12 km, which will lead to different circulations aloft). These variations stress the need for tropics-wide observations of the vertical structure of radiative heating associated with upper level clouds, in part to assess the validity of GCM studies.
 Hybrid modeling-observation studies have also been performed to examine the radiative impact of clouds on the large-scale circulation. Wang and Rossow  interactively changed the cloud vertical structure in a GCM to study the impact of changes in the vertical gradient in radiative heating associated with quasi-realistic cloud distributions. They found that clouds with the same cloud-top pressure but different cloud-layer thickness produce very different Hadley circulations. Thus, clouds with similar top-of-atmosphere forcing (or vertical integral of heating) may have large variability in cloud radiative atmospheric forcing in the vertical. Bergman and Hendon  performed a set of GCM simulations forced by relatively coarse-resolution, reanalysis- and satellite-derived cloud radiative heating profiles and indicated that tropical cloud radiative forcing strengthens the latent heating driven large-scale circulation, although they found that the impact was larger at low levels. To date, similar studies with a climatology of high-resolution radiative heating inputs (and with a focus on upper level clouds) have not been done due to a lack of observationally based data.
 The International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) was established in 1982 and has since provided long-term satellite datasets of cloud properties [Rossow and Schiffer, 1991; Rossow and Schiffer, 1999]. Of particular use in delineating the radiative impact of certain cloud types is the ISCCP cloud regimes, which are objectively identified based on daytime observations of cloud top pressure and optical thickness [Jakob and Tselioudis, 2003; Rossow et al., 2005]. By combining ISCCP cloud regimes and cloud and precipitation data from other sources, several studies have investigated the cloud radiative properties and latent heating profiles for major tropical and midlatitude cloud modes [Jakob et al., 2005; Jakob and Schumacher, 2008; Oreopoulos and Rossow, 2011; Haynes et al., 2011]. For example, Jakob et al.  used the radiative retrievals from the Department of Energy (DOE) Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Nauru site in the tropical western Pacific (TWP) to characterize the radiative flux for four major ISCCP cloud regimes (suppressed shallow cloud, suppressed thin cirrus, convectively active deep cloud, and convectively active cirrus). Jakob and Schumacher  further expanded the application of the cloud regime data to Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Precipitation Radar (PR) observations to estimate the latent heating profiles associated with ISCCP cloud regimes in the TWP.
 Department of Energy ARM cloud radars and lidars allow high vertical and temporal resolution calculations of cloud radiative properties [Comstock et al., 2002; Comstock and Jakob, 2004; McFarlane and Evans, 2004; Mather et al., 2007; McFarlane et al., 2007]. By matching ISCCP cloud regimes with cloud radiative information from the DOE ARM TWP sites, this study builds a look-up table of radiative heating profiles associated with ISCCP upper level cloud regimes that is then applied across the tropics. An idealized climate model is further used to examine the sensitivity of the large-scale circulation to the three-dimensional variation of the radiative and latent heating of tropical convective cloud systems. This study only looks at the direct impact of the diabatic heating on the model response. An interactive modeling framework that includes convective interactions is left for future work.