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On the transitions in marine boundary layer cloudiness

by I. Sandu, B. Stevens, R. Pincus
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions ()
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Satellite observations and meteorological reanal- ysis are used to examine the transition from unbroken sheets of stratocumulus to fields of scattered cumulus, and the pro- cesses controlling them, in four subtropical oceans. A La- grangian analysis suggests that both the transition, defined as the temporal evolution in cloudiness, and the processes driving the transition, are quite similar among the subtropical oceans. The increase in sea surface temperature and the asso- ciated decrease in lower tropospheric stability appear to play a far more important role in cloud evolution than other factors including changes in large scale divergence and upper tropo- spheric humidity. During the summer months, the transitions in marine boundary layer cloudiness appear so systematically that their characteristics obtained by documenting the flow of thousands of individual air masses are well reproduced by the mean (or climatological) fields of the different data sets. This highlights interesting opportunities for future observa- tional and modeling studies of these transitions. 1

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