Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 10, 4373-4405, 2010
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in ACP.
Joint spatial variability of aerosol, clouds and rainfall in the Himalayas from satellite data
P. Shrestha and A. P. Barros
Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA

Abstract. Satellite-based precipitation, Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD), Cloud Optical Depth (COD), and Aerosol Index (AI) data were used to characterize the linkages among landform and the intra-annual variability of aerosols, cloudiness and rainfall in the Himalayas using Empirical Orthogonal Function (EOF) analysis. The first modes of AOD and AI show the presence of two branches of dust aerosol: over the Indus River basin and the Thar Desert with a sharp west-east gradient parallel to the southern slopes of the Himalayas – the southern Branch; and the second against the slopes of the Tian Shan and over the Takla Makan Desert in the Tibetan Plateau – the northern branch. The second EOF mode of AOD accounts for about 10% of overall variance of AOD. It is attached to the foothills of the Himalayas east of the Aravalli range peaking in April-May followed by a sharp decrease between June and July during the first active phase of the monsoon. The first and second EOF modes of COD and precipitation show consistent patterns against the Central and Eastern Himalayas and along the ocean-land boundaries in western India and the Bay of Bengal. The break in cloudiness and rainfall between the winter and the monsoon seasons is captured well by the second EOF mode of COD and rainfall concurrent with the aerosol build up mode (March-April-May) over the region depicted by the second mode of AOD. The results show that the Aravalli range separates the two different modes of aerosol variability over northern India with dust aerosols to the west and polluted mixed aerosols to the east consistent with its role in regional circulation and precipitations patterns as per Barros et al. (2004) and Chiao and Barros (2006). The region of spatial overlap of the modes of variability of aerosols, clouds and rainfall is captured by the second EOF of MODIS AOD along the southern slopes of the Himalayas east of the Aravalli. It is proposed that this mode maps the area where the indirect radiative effect of aerosols on cloud properties and rainfall is pronounced.

Citation: Shrestha, P. and Barros, A. P.: Joint spatial variability of aerosol, clouds and rainfall in the Himalayas from satellite data, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 10, 4373-4405, doi:10.5194/acpd-10-4373-2010, 2010.
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