Drivers of Intra-Summer Seasonality and Daily Variability of Coastal Low Cloudiness in California Subregions

Monday, 15 December 2014
Sam Iacobellis1, Rachel E Schwartz1, Alexander Gershunov2, Park Williams3 and Daniel R Cayan4, (1)Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States, (2)Univ California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States, (3)Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY, United States, (4)University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States
Summertime low cloud intrusion into the terrestrial west coast of North America impacts human, ecological, and logistical systems. Over a broad region of the West Coast, summer (May – September) coastal low cloudiness (CLC) varies coherently on interannual to interdecadal timescales and has been found to be organized by North Pacific sea surface temperature. Broad-scale studies of low stratiform cloudiness over ocean basins also find that the season of maximum low stratus corresponds to the season of maximum lower tropospheric stability (LTS) or estimated inversion strength. We utilize a 18-summer record of CLC derived from NASA/NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) at 4km resolution over California (CA) to make a more nuanced spatial and temporal examination of intra-summer variability in CLC and its drivers. We find that uniform spatial coherency over CA is not apparent for intra-summer variability in CLC. On monthly to daily timescales, at least two distinct subregions of coastal California (CA) can be identified, where relationships between meteorology and stratus variability appear to change throughout summer in each subregion. While north of Point Conception and offshore the timing of maximum CLC is closely coincident with maximum LTS, in the Southern CA Bight and northern Baja region, maximum CLC occurs up to about a month before maximum LTS. It appears that summertime CLC in this southern region is not as strongly related as in the northern region to LTS. In particular, although the relationship is strong in May and June, starting in July the daily relationship between LTS and CLC in the south begins to deteriorate. Preliminary results indicate a moderate association between decreased CLC in the south and increased precipitable water content above 850 hPa on daily time scales beginning in July. Relationships between daily CLC variability and meteorological variables including winds, inland temperatures, relative humidity, and geopotential heights within and above the marine boundary layer are investigated and dissected by month, CA subregion, and cloud height. The rich spatial detail of the satellite derived CLC record is utilized to examine the propagation in time and space of CLC on synoptic scales within and among subregions.