National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2006

Surface cloud forcing in the east Pacific stratus deck/cold tongue/ITCZ complex

Cronin, M.F., N.A. Bond, C. Fairall, and R.A. Weller

J. Climate, 19(3), 392–409, doi: 10.1175/JCLI3620.1 (2006)

Data from the Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Studies (EPIC) mooring array are used to evaluate the annual cycle of surface cloud forcing in the far eastern Pacific stratus cloud deck/cold tongue/ intertropical convergence zone complex. Data include downwelling surface solar and longwave radiation from 10 EPIC-enhanced Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) moorings from 8°S, 95°W to 12°N, 95°W, and the Woods Hole Improved Meteorology (IMET) mooring in the stratus cloud deck region at 20°S, 85°W. Surface cloud forcing is defined as the observed downwelling radiation at the surface minus the clear-sky value. Solar cloud forcing and longwave cloud forcing are anticorrelated at all latitudes from 12°N to 20°S: clouds tended to reduce the downward solar radiation and to a lesser extent increase the downward longwave radiation at the surface. The relative amount of solar radiation reduction and longwave increase depends upon cloud type and varies with latitude. A statistical relationship between solar and longwave surface cloud forcing is developed for rainy and dry periods and for the full record length in six latitudinal regions: northeast tropical warm pool, ITCZ, frontal zone, cold tongue, southern, and stratus deck regions. The buoy cloud forcing observations and empirical relations are compared with the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) radiative flux data (FD) dataset and are used as benchmarks to evaluate surface cloud forcing in the NCEP Reanalysis 2 (NCEP2) and 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA- 40). ERA-40 and NCEP2 cloud forcing (both solar and longwave) showed large discrepancies with observations, being too large in the ITCZ and equatorial regions and too weak under the stratus deck at 20°S and north to the equator during the cool season from July to December. In particular the NCEP2 cloud forcing at the equator was nearly identical to the ITCZ region and thus had significantly larger solar cloud forcing and smaller longwave cloud forcing than observed. The net result of the solar and longwave cloud forcing deviations is that there is too little radiative warming in the ITCZ and southward to 8°S during the warm season and too much radiative warming under the stratus deck at 20°S and northward to the equator during the cold season.

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