Fair-weather cumuli are fundamental in regulating the vertical structure of water vapor and entropy in the lowest 2-3 km of the earth's atmosphere over vast areas of the oceans. In this study, a long record of profiling cloud radar observations at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program (ARM) Climate Research Facility (ACRF) at Nauru Island is used to investigate cloud vertical air motion statistics over an 8-yr observing period. Appropriate processing of the observed low radar reflectivities provides radar volume samples that contain only small cloud droplets; thus, the Doppler velocities are used as air motion tracers. The technique is applied to shallow boundary layer clouds (less than 1000 m thick) during the 1999-2007 period when radar data are available. Using the boundary layer winds from the soundings obtained at the Nauru ACRF, the fair-weather cumuli fields are classified in easterly and westerly boundary layer wind regimes. This distinction is necessary to separate marine-forced (westerlies) from land-forced (easterlies) shallow clouds because of a well-studied island effect at the Nauru ACRF. The two regimes exhibit large diurnal differences in cloud fraction and cloud dynamics as manifested by the analysis of the hourly averaged vertical air motion statistics. The fair-weather cumuli fields associated with easterlies exhibit a strong diurnal cycle in cloud fraction and updraft strength and fraction, indicating a strong influence of land-forced clouds. In contrast over the fair-weather cumuli with oceanic origin, land-forced clouds are characterized by uniform diurnal cloudiness and persistent updrafts at the cloud-base level. This study provides a unique observational dataset appropriate for testing fair-weather cumulus mass flux and turbulence parameterizations in numerical models.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atmospheric Science