Association of tropical cirrus in the 10-15-km layer with deep convective sources: An Observational study combining millimeter radar data and satellite-derived trajectories

Gerald G. Mace, Min Deng, Brian Soden, Ed Zipser

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In this paper, millimeter cloud radar (MMCR) and Geosynchronous Meteorological Satellite (GMS) data are cotimbined to study the properties of tropical cirrus that are common in the 10-15-km layer of the tropical troposphere in the western Pacific. Millimeter cloud radar observations collected by the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement program on the islands of Manus and Nauru in the western and central equatorial Pacific during a 12-month period spanning 1999 and 2000 show differences in cirrus properties: over Manus, where clouds above 7 km are observed 48% of the time, the cirrus are thicker and warmer on average and the radar reflectivity and Doppler velocity are larger; over Nauru clouds above 7 km are observed 23% of time. To explain the differences in cloud properties, the relationship between tropical cirrus and deep convection is examined by combining the radar observations with GMS satellite-derived back trajectories. Using a data record of 1 yr, it is found that 47% of the cirrus observed over Manus can be traced to a deep convective source within the past 12 h while just 16% of the cirrus observed over Nauru appear to have a convective source within the previous 12 h. Of the cirrus that can be traced to deep convection, the evolution of the radar-observed cloud properties is examined as a function of apparent cloud age. The radar Doppler moments and ice water path of the observed cirrus at both sites generally decrease as the cirrus age increase. At Manus, it is found that cirrus during boreal winter typically advect over the site from the southeast from convection associated with the winter monsoon, while during boreal summer, the trajectories are mainly from the northeast. The properties of these two populations of cirrus are found to be different, with the winter cirrus having higher concentrations of smaller particles. Examining statistics of the regional convection using Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), it is found that the properties of the winter monsoon convection in the cirrus source region are consistent with more intense convection compared to the convection in the summer source region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)480-503
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2006
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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