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Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Transitions of cloud-topped marine boundary layers characterized by AIRS, MODIS, and a large eddy simulation model

Authors

  • Qing Yue,

    Corresponding author
    1. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
    • Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA
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  • Brian H. Kahn,

    1. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
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  • Heng Xiao,

    1. Department of Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA
    2. Now at the Atmospheric Sciences and Global Change Division, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington, USA
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  • Mathias M. Schreier,

    1. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
    2. Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA
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  • Eric J. Fetzer,

    1. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
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  • João Teixeira,

    1. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
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  • Kay Sušelj

    1. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
    2. Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA
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Corresponding author: Q. Yue, Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering, University of California—Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA. (Qing.Yue@jpl.nasa.gov)

Abstract

[1] Cloud top entrainment instability (CTEI) is a hypothesized positive feedback between entrainment mixing and evaporative cooling near the cloud top. Previous theoretical and numerical modeling studies have shown that the persistence or breakup of marine boundary layer (MBL) clouds may be sensitive to the CTEI parameter. Collocated thermodynamic profile and cloud observations obtained from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments are used to quantify the relationship between the CTEI parameter and the cloud-topped MBL transition from stratocumulus to trade cumulus in the northeastern Pacific Ocean. Results derived from AIRS and MODIS are compared with numerical results from the UCLA large eddy simulation (LES) model for both well-mixed and decoupled MBLs. The satellite and model results both demonstrate a clear correlation between the CTEI parameter and MBL cloud fraction. Despite fundamental differences between LES steady state results and the instantaneous snapshot type of observations from satellites, significant correlations for both the instantaneous pixel-scale observations and the long-term averaged spatial patterns between the CTEI parameter and MBL cloud fraction are found from the satellite observations and are consistent with LES results. This suggests the potential of using AIRS and MODIS to quantify global and temporal characteristics of the cloud-topped MBL transition.

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