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The statistical properties of tropical ice clouds generated by the West-African and Australian monsoons from ground-based radar-lidar observations

Protat, A., Delanoë, J., Plana-Fattori, A., May, P. T. and O'Connor, E. J. (2010) The statistical properties of tropical ice clouds generated by the West-African and Australian monsoons from ground-based radar-lidar observations. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 136 (S1). pp. 345-363. ISSN 1477-870X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1002/qj.490


In the present paper we characterize the statistical properties of non-precipitating tropical ice clouds (deep ice anvils resulting from deep convection and cirrus clouds) over Niamey, Niger, West Africa, and Darwin, northern Australia, using ground-based radar–lidar observations from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) programme. The ice cloud properties analysed in this paper are the frequency of ice cloud occurrence, cloud fraction, the morphological properties (cloud-top height, base height, and thickness), the microphysical and radiative properties (ice water content, visible extinction, effective radius, terminal fall speed, and concentration), and the internal cloud dynamics (in-cloud vertical air velocity). The main highlight of the paper is that it characterizes for the first time the probability density functions of the tropical ice cloud properties, their vertical variability and their diurnal variability at the same time. This is particularly important over West Africa, since the ARM deployment in Niamey provides the first vertically resolved observations of non-precipitating ice clouds in this crucial area in terms of redistribution of water and energy in the troposphere. The comparison between the two sites also provides an additional observational basis for the evaluation of the parametrization of clouds in large-scale models, which should be able to reproduce both the statistical properties at each site and the differences between the two sites. The frequency of ice cloud occurrence is found to be much larger over Darwin when compared to Niamey, and with a much larger diurnal variability, which is well correlated with the diurnal cycle of deep convective activity. The diurnal cycle of the ice cloud occurrence over Niamey is also much less correlated with that of deep convective activity than over Darwin, probably owing to the fact that Niamey is further away from the deep convective sources of the region. The frequency distributions of cloud fraction are strongly bimodal and broadly similar over the two sites, with a predominance of clouds characterized either by a very small cloud fraction (less than 0.3) or a very large cloud fraction (larger than 0.9). The ice clouds over Darwin are also much thicker (by 1 km or more statistically) and are characterized by a much larger diurnal variability than ice clouds over Niamey. Ice clouds over Niamey are also characterized by smaller particle sizes and fall speeds but in much larger concentrations, thereby carrying more ice water and producing more visible extinction than the ice clouds over Darwin. It is also found that there is a much larger occurrence of downward in-cloud air motions less than 1 m s−1 over Darwin, which together with the larger fall speeds retrieved over Darwin indicates that the life cycle of ice clouds is probably shorter over Darwin than over Niamey.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:24181
Uncontrolled Keywords:AMMA; microphysics
Additional Information:Supplement: Advances in understanding atmospheric processes over West Africa through the AMMA field campaign
Publisher:Royal Meteorological Society

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