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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 16 Jan 2019

Submitted as: research article | 16 Jan 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Observation of ENSO linked changes in the tropical Atlantic cloud vertical distribution using 14 years of MODIS observations

Nils Madenach1, Cintia Carbajal Henken1, René Preusker1, Odran Sourdeval2, and Jürgen Fischer1 Nils Madenach et al.
  • 1Institute for Space Sciences, Freie Universität Berlin, Carl-Heinrich-Becker-Weg 6–10, 12165 Berlin, Germany
  • 2Laboratoire d’Optique Atmosphérique, Université de Lille, Villeneuve d’Ascq, France

Abstract. 14 years (September 2002 to September 2016) of Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) monthly mean cloud data is analyzed to identify possible changes of the cloud vertical distribution over the Tropical Atlantic Ocean (TAO). For the analysis multiple linear regression techniques are used.

Within the investigated period, no significant trend in the domain-averaged cloud vertical distribution was found. In terms of linear changes, two major phases (before and after November 2011) in the time-series of the TAO domain-average Cloud Top Height (CTH) and High Cloud Fraction (HCF) can be distinguished. While phase 1 is dominated by a significant linear increase, phase 2 is characterized by a strong, significant linear decrease. The observed trends were mainly caused by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The increase in CTH and HCF in phase 1, was attributed to the transition from El Niño (2002) to La Niña (2011) conditions. The strong decrease in phase 2, was caused by the opposite transition from a La Niña (2011) to a major El Niño event (2016).

A comparison with the large scale vertical motion ω at 500 hPa obtained from ERA-Interim ECMWF Re-Analyses and the Nino3.4-Index indicates that the changes in HCF are induced by ENSO linked changes in the large scale vertical upward movements over regions with strong large scale ascent. A first comparison with the DARDAR data set, which combines CloudSat radar and CALIPSO lidar measurements, shows qualitatively good agreements for the interannual variability of the high cloud amount and its linear decrease in phase 2.

Nils Madenach et al.
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Nils Madenach et al.
Nils Madenach et al.
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