Observed vertical structure of tropical oceanic clouds sorted in large-scale regimes



[1] The CloudSat cloud water content (CWC) profiles are sorted by a number of large-scale parameters obtained from reanalysis and satellite observations, including 500 hPa vertical velocity, sea surface temperature and its gradient, surface divergence, precipitation, water vapor path, convective available potential energy and lower tropospheric static stability. The sorting is physics-based and phenomenon-oriented. We find different degrees of clustering of cloud vertical structure in various large-scale regimes. The dominant modes are the deep and shallow clouds with peak CWC above 7 km and below 2 km, respectively, corresponding to distinctly different large-scale regimes. A middle-level peak of CWC around 5–7 km is discernible associated with the large-scale conditions similar to the shallow clouds. This study provides the first quantitative and comprehensive view of tropical CWC distributions in large-scale regimes. These results offer insights into cloud parameterizations and serve as new observational metrics for evaluation of cloud simulations in models.