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The vertical cloud structure of the West African monsoon: a 4 year climatology using CloudSat and CALIPSO

Stein, T. H. M. ORCID:, Parker, D. J., Delanoë, J., Dixon, N. S., Hogan, R. J., Knippertz, P., Maidment, R. I. ORCID: and Marsham, J. H. (2011) The vertical cloud structure of the West African monsoon: a 4 year climatology using CloudSat and CALIPSO. Journal of Geophysical Research, 116. D22205. ISSN 2156–2202

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1029/2011JD016029


The West African summer monsoon (WAM) is an important driver of the global climate and locally provides most of the annual rainfall. A solid climatological knowledge of the complex vertical cloud structure is invaluable to forecasters and modelers to improve the understanding of the WAM. In this paper, 4 years of data from the CloudSat profiling radar and CALIPSO are used to create a composite zonal mean vertical cloud and precipitation structure for the WAM. For the first time, the near-coincident vertical radar and lidar profiles allow for the identification of individual cloud types from optically thin cirrus and shallow cumulus to congestus and deep convection. A clear diurnal signal in zonal mean cloud structure is observed for the WAM, with deep convective activity enhanced at night producing extensive anvil and cirrus, while daytime observations show more shallow cloud and congestus. A layer of altocumulus is frequently observed over the Sahara at night and day, extending southward to the coastline, and the majority of this cloud is shown to contain supercooled liquid in the top. The occurrence of deep convective systems and congestus in relation to the position of the African easterly jet is studied, but only the daytime cumulonimbus distribution indicates some influence of the jet position.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:24962
Uncontrolled Keywords:CALIPSO; CloudSat; West African monsoon; tropical convection
Publisher:American Geophysical Union


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