CloudSat mission: Performance and early science after the first year of operation

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Abstract

[1] This paper reports on the early mission performance of the radar and other major aspects of the CloudSat mission. The Cloudsat cloud profiling radar (CPR) has been operating since 2 June 2006 and has proven to be remarkably stable since turn-on. A number of products have been developed using these space-borne radar data as principal inputs. Combined with other A-Train sensor data, these new observations offer unique, global views of the vertical structure of clouds and precipitation jointly. Approximately 11% of clouds detected over the global oceans produce precipitation that, in all likelihood, reaches the surface. Warm precipitating clouds are both wetter and composed of larger particles than nonprecipitating clouds. The frequency of precipitation increases significantly with increasing cloud depth, and the increased depth and water path of precipitating clouds leads to increased optical depths and substantially more sunlight reflected from precipitating clouds compared to than nonprecipitating warm clouds. The CloudSat observations also provide an authoritative estimate of global ice water paths. The observed ice water paths are larger than those predicted from most climate models. CloudSat observations also indicate that clouds radiatively heat the global mean atmospheric column (relative to clear skies) by about 10 Wm−2. Although this heating appears to be contributed almost equally by solar and infrared absorption, the latter contribution is shown to vary significantly with latitude being influenced by the predominant cloud structures of the different region in questions.

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