Subtropical Low Cloud Responses to Central and Eastern Pacific El Nino Events

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Anita D Rapp1, Ralf Bennartz2, Jonathan H. Jiang3, Seiji Kato4, William S Olson5, Rachel T Pinker6, Hui Su3 and Patrick C Taylor7, (1)Texas A & M University, College Station, TX, United States, (2)Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, United States, (3)NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States, (4)NASA Langley Research Ctr, Hampton, VA, United States, (5)Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology, Baltimore, MD, United States, (6)Univ Maryland, College Park, MD, United States, (7)NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, United States
The eastern Pacific El Niño event in 2006-2007 and the central Pacific El Niño event during 2009-2010 exhibit opposite responses in the top of atmosphere (TOA) cloud radiative effects. These responses are driven by differences in large-scale circulation that result in significant low cloud anomalies in the subtropical southeastern Pacific. Both the vertical profile of cloud fraction and cloud water content are reduced during the eastern Pacific El Niño; however, the shift in the distribution of cloud characteristics and the physical processes underlying these changes need further analysis. The NASA Energy and Water Cycle Study (NEWS) Clouds and Radiation Working Group will use a synthesis of NEWS data products, A-Train satellite measurements, reanalysis, and modeling approaches to further explore the differences in the low cloud response to changes in the large-scale forcing, as well as try to understand the physical mechanism driving the observed changes in the low clouds for the 2006/07 and 2009/10 distinct El Niño events. The distributions of cloud macrophysical, microphysical, and radiative properties over the southeast Pacific will first be compared for these two events using a combination of MODIS, CloudSat/CALIPSO, and CERES data. Satellite and reanalysis estimates of changes in the vertical temperature and moisture profiles, lower tropospheric stability, winds, and surface heat fluxes are then used to identify the drivers for observed differences in the clouds and TOA radiative effects.