Lin, WY, Zhang, MH, Loeb, NG (2009). Seasonal Variation of the Physical Properties of Marine Boundary Layer Clouds off the California Coast. JOURNAL OF CLIMATE, 22(10), 2624-2638.
Marine boundary layer (MBL) clouds can significantly regulate the sensitivity of climate models, yet they are currently poorly simulated. This study aims to characterize the seasonal variations of physical properties of these clouds and their associated processes by using multisatellite data. Measurements from several independent satellite datasets [ International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP), Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System-Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (CERES-MODIS), Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS), and Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO)], in conjunction with balloon soundings from the mobile facility of the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement ( ARM) program at Point Reyes and reanalysis products, are used to characterize the seasonal variations of MBL cloud-top and cloud-base heights, cloud thickness, the degree of decoupling between clouds and MBL, and inversion strength off the California coast. The main results from this study are as follows: (i) MBL clouds over the northeast subtropical Pacific in the summer are more prevalent and associated with a larger in-cloud water path than in winter. The cloud-top and cloud-base heights are lower in the summer than in the winter. (ii) Although the lower-tropospheric stability of the atmosphere is higher in the summer, the MBL inversion strength is only weakly stronger in the summer because of a negative feedback from the cloud-top altitude. Summertime MBL clouds are more homogeneous and are associated with lower surface latent heat flux than those in the winter. (iii) Seasonal variations of low-cloud properties from summer to winter resemble the downstream stratocumulus-to-cumulus transition of MBL clouds in terms of MBL depth, cloud-top and cloud-base heights, inversion strength, and spatial homogeneity. The deepening-warming'' mechanism of Bretherton and Wyant for the stratocumulus-to-trade-cumulus transition downstream of the cold eastern ocean can also explain the seasonal variation of low clouds from the summer to the winter, except that warming of the sea surface temperature needs to be taken as relative to the free-tropospheric air temperature, which occurs in the winter. The observed variation of low clouds from summer to winter is attributed to the much larger seasonal cooling of the free-tropospheric air temperature than that of the sea surface temperature.