Loeb, NG; Kato, S; Su, WY; Wong, TM; Rose, FG; Doelling, DR; Norris, JR; Huang, XL (2012). Advances in Understanding Top-of-Atmosphere Radiation Variability from Satellite Observations. SURVEYS IN GEOPHYSICS, 33(4-Mar), 359-385.
This paper highlights how the emerging record of satellite observations from the Earth Observation System (EOS) and A-Train constellation are advancing our ability to more completely document and understand the underlying processes associated with variations in the Earth's top-of-atmosphere (TOA) radiation budget. Large-scale TOA radiation changes during the past decade are observed to be within 0.5 Wm(-2) per decade based upon comparisons between Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) instruments aboard Terra and Aqua and other instruments. Tropical variations in emitted outgoing longwave (LW) radiation are found to closely track changes in the El Nio-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). During positive ENSO phase (El Nio), outgoing LW radiation increases, and decreases during the negative ENSO phase (La Nia). The coldest year during the last decade occurred in 2008, during which strong La Nina conditions persisted throughout most of the year. Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) observations show that the lower temperatures extended throughout much of the troposphere for several months, resulting in a reduction in outgoing LW radiation and an increase in net incoming radiation. At the global scale, outgoing LW flux anomalies are partially compensated for by decreases in midlatitude cloud fraction and cloud height, as observed by Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer and Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer, respectively. CERES data show that clouds have a net radiative warming influence during La Nia conditions and a net cooling influence during El Nio, but the magnitude of the anomalies varies greatly from one ENSO event to another. Regional cloud-radiation variations among several Terra and A-Train instruments show consistent patterns and exhibit marked fluctuations at monthly timescales in response to tropical atmosphere-ocean dynamical processes associated with ENSO and Madden-Julian Oscillation.