Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 10, 20069-20124, 2010
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The variability of tropical ice cloud properties as a function of the large-scale context from ground-based radar-lidar observations over Darwin, Australia
A. Protat1,2, J. Delanoë3, P. T. May1, J. Haynes4, C. Jakob4, E. O'Connor3, M. Pope5, and M. C. Wheeler1
1Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Melbourne, Australia
2Laboratoire ATmosphère, Milieux, Observations Spatiales (LATMOS), Vélizy, France
3University of Reading, Reading, UK
4Monash Weather and Climate, School of Mathematical Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Australia
5Australian Bureau of Meteorology Training Centre (BMTC), Melbourne, Australia

Abstract. The statistical properties of non-precipitating tropical ice clouds over Darwin, Australia are characterized using ground-based radar-lidar observations from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program. The ice cloud properties analysed are the frequency of ice cloud occurrence, the morphological properties (cloud top height and thickness, cloud fraction as derived considering a typical large-scale model grid box), and the microphysical and radiative properties (ice water content, visible extinction, effective radius, terminal fall speed, and total concentration). The variability of these tropical ice cloud properties is then studied as a function of the large-scale cloud regimes derived from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP), the amplitude and phase of the Madden–Julian Oscillation (MJO), and the large-scale atmospheric regime as derived from a long-term record of radiosonde observations over Darwin. The rationale for characterizing this variability is to provide an observational basis to which model outputs can be compared for the different regimes or large-scale characteristics and from which new parameterizations accounting for the large-scale context can be derived.

The mean vertical variability of ice cloud occurrence and microphysical properties is large (1.5 order of magnitude for ice water content and extinction, a factor 3 in effective radius, and three orders of magnitude in concentration, typically). 98% of ice clouds in our dataset are characterized by either a small cloud fraction (smaller than 0.3) or a very large cloud fraction (larger than 0.9). Our results also indicate that, at least in the northern Australian region, the upper part of the troposphere can be split into three distinct layers characterized by different statistically-dominant microphysical processes. The variability of the ice cloud properties as a function of the large-scale atmospheric regime, cloud regime, and MJO phase is found to be large, producing mean differences of up to a factor of 8 in the frequency of ice cloud occurrence between large-scale atmospheric regimes, a factor of 3 to 4 for the ISCCP regimes and the MJO phases, and mean differences of a factor of 2 typically in all microphysical properties analysed in the present paper between large-scale atmospheric regimes or MJO phases. Large differences in occurrence (up to 60–80%) are also found in the main patterns of the cloud fraction distribution of ice clouds (fractions smaller than 0.3 and larger than 0.9). Finally, the diurnal cycle of the frequency of occurrence of ice clouds is also very different between regimes and MJO phases, with diurnal amplitudes of the vertically-integrated frequency of ice cloud occurrence ranging from as low as 0.2 (almost no detectable diurnal cycle) to values in excess of 2.0 (very large diurnal amplitude).

Citation: Protat, A., Delanoë, J., May, P. T., Haynes, J., Jakob, C., O'Connor, E., Pope, M., and Wheeler, M. C.: The variability of tropical ice cloud properties as a function of the large-scale context from ground-based radar-lidar observations over Darwin, Australia, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 10, 20069-20124, doi:10.5194/acpd-10-20069-2010, 2010.
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