A comparative study of the observations of high clouds and simulations by an atmospheric general circulation model

R. T. Wetherald, V. Ramaswamy, S. Manabe

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7 Scopus citations


The importance of clouds in the upper troposphere (cirrus) for the sensitivity of the Earth's climate e.g., requires that these clouds be modeled accurately in general circulation model (GCM) studies of the atmosphere. Bearing in mind the lack of unambiguous quantitative information on the geographical distribution and properties of high clouds, the simulated distribution of upper tropospheric clouds in a spectral GCM is compared with several satellite-derived data-sets that pertain to high clouds only, for both winter and summer seasons. In the model, clouds are assumed to occupy an entire gridbox whenever the relative humidity exceeds 99%: otherwise the grid box is assumed to be free of cloud. Despite the simplicity of the cloud prediction scheme, the geographical distribution of the maxima in the model's upper tropospheric cloud cover coincides approximately with the regions of the observed maxima in the high cloud amount and their frequency of occurrence (e.g., intertropical convergence zone and the monsoon areas). These areas exhibit a minimum in the outgoing longwave radiation (OLR; Nimbus-7) and are also coincident with regions of heavy precipitation. The model, with its relatively simple cloud formation scheme, appears to capture the principal large-scale features of the tropical convective processes that are evident in the satellite and precipitation datasets, wherein the intense, upward motion is accompanied by condensation and the spreading of thick upper tropospheric layers of high relative humidity and cloudiness in the vicinity of the tropical rainbelt regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-143
Number of pages9
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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