Variations of tropical upper tropospheric clouds with sea surface temperature and implications for radiative effects

Abstract

[1] The variations of tropical upper tropospheric (UT) clouds with sea surface temperature (SST) are analyzed using effective cloud fraction from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on Aqua and ice water content (IWC) from the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) on Aura. The analyses are limited to UT clouds above 300 hPa. Our analyses do not suggest a negative correlation of tropical-mean UT cloud fraction with the cloud-weighted SST (CWT). Instead, both tropical-mean UT cloud fraction and IWC are found to increase with CWT, although their correlations with CWT are rather weak. The rate of increase of UT cloud fraction with CWT is comparable to that of precipitation, while the UT IWC and ice water path (IWP) increase more strongly with CWT. The radiative effect of UT clouds is investigated, and they are shown to provide a net warming at the top of the atmosphere. An increase of IWP with SST yields an increase of net warming that corresponds to a positive feedback, until the UT IWP exceeds a value about 50% greater than presently observed by MLS. Further increases of the UT IWP would favor the shortwave cooling effect, causing a negative feedback. Sensitivities of UT cloud forcing to the uncertainties in UT CFR and IWC measurements are discussed.

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Su2008VariationsOT, title={Variations of tropical upper tropospheric clouds with sea surface temperature and implications for radiative effects}, author={Hui Su and Jonathan H. Jiang and Yu Gu and J. David Neelin and Brian H. Kahn and Daniel Feldman and Yuk L. Yung and Joe W. Waters and Nathaniel J. Livesey and Michelle L. Santee and William G. Read}, year={2008} }