MODIS Microphysical Regimes for Examining Apparent Aerosol Effects on Clouds and Precipitation
Monday, 15 December 2014: 5:15 PM
We use a 10-year record of MODIS Terra and Aqua Level-3 joint histograms of cloud optical thickness (COT) and cloud effective radius (CER) to derive so-called cloud microphysical regimes by means of clustering analysis. The regimes reveal the dominant modes of COT and CER co-variations around the globe for both liquid and ice phases. The clustering analysis is capable of separating regimes so that each is dominated by one of the two water phases and can be associated with previously derived "dynamical" regimes. The microphysical regimes serve as an appropriate basis to study possible effects of aerosols on cloud microphysical changes and precipitation. To this end, we employ MODIS aerosol loading measurements either in terms of aerosol index or aerosol optical depth and spatiotemporally matched precipitation (from either GPCP, TRMM or CloudSat) to examine intra-regime variability, regime transitions from morning (Terra) to afternoon (Aqua), and regime precipitation characteristics for locally low, average, and high aerosol loadings. Breakdowns by ocean/land and geographical zone (e.g., tropics vs. midlatitudes) are essential for physical interpretation of the results. The analysis conducted so far reveals notable differences in apparent characteristics of low- and high-cloud dominated microphysical regimes when in different aerosol environments. The presentation will attempt to examine whether the picture painted by our work is consistent with prevailing expectations, rooted to either modeling or prior observational studies, on how clouds and precipitation respond to distinct aerosol environments.