Yuan, JA, Houze, RA (2010). Global Variability of Mesoscale Convective System Anvil Structure from A-Train Satellite Data. JOURNAL OF CLIMATE, 23(21), 5864-5888.
Mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) in the tropics produce extensive anvil clouds, which significantly affect the transfer of radiation. This study develops an objective method to identify MCSs and their anvils by combining data from three A-train satellite instruments: Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) for cloud-top size and coldness, Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for Earth Observing System (AMSR-E) for rain area size and intensity, and CloudSat for horizontal and vertical dimensions of anvils. The authors distinguish three types of MCSs: small and large separated MCSs and connected MCSs. The latter are MCSs sharing a contiguous rain area. Mapping of the objectively identified MCSs shows patterns of MCSs that are consistent with previous studies of tropical convection, with separated MCSs dominant over Africa and the Amazon regions and connected MCSs favored over the warm pool of the Indian and west Pacific Oceans. By separating the anvil from the raining regions of MCSs, this study leads to quantitative global maps of anvil coverage. These maps are consistent with the MCS analysis, and they lay the foundation for estimating the global radiative effects of anvil clouds. CloudSat radar data show that the modal thickness of MCS anvils is similar to 4-5 km. Anvils are mostly confined to within 1.5-2 times the equivalent radii of the primary rain areas of the MCSs. Over the warm pool, they may extend out to similar to 5 times the rain area radii. The warm ocean MCSs tend to have thicker nonraining and lightly raining anvils near the edges of their actively raining regions, indicating that anvils are generated in and spread out from the primary raining regions of the MCSs. Thicker anvils are nearly absent over continental regions.