Simulation of Seasonal Variation of Marine Boundary Layer Clouds over the Eastern Pacific with a Regional Climate Model*
Journal of Climate
The seasonal cycle of marine boundary layer (MBL) clouds over the eastern Pacific Ocean is studied with the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) Regional Atmospheric Model (iRAM). The results show that the model is capable of simulating not only the overall seasonal cycle but also the spatial distribution, cloud regime transition, and vertical structure of MBL clouds over the eastern Pacific. Although the modeled MBL cloud layer is generally too high in altitude over the open ocean when
... the open ocean when compared with available satellite observations, the model simulated well the westward deepening and decoupling of the MBL, the rise in cloud base and cloud top of the low cloud decks off the Peru and California coasts, and the cloud regime transition from stratocumulus near the coast to trade cumulus farther to the west in both the southeast and northeast Pacific. In particular, the model reproduced major features of the seasonal variations in stratocumulus decks off the Peru and California coasts, including cloud amount, surface latent heat flux, subcloud-layer mixing, and the degree of MBL decoupling. In both observations and the model simulation, in the season with small low-level cloudiness, surface latent heat flux is large and the cloud base is high. This coincides with weak subcloud-layer mixing and strong entrainment at cloud top, characterized by a high degree of MBL decoupling, while the opposite is true for the season with large low-level cloudiness. This seasonal cycle in low-cloud properties resembles the downstream stratocumulus-to-cumulus transition of marine low clouds and can be explained by the "deepening-decoupling" mechanism proposed in previous studies. It is found that the seasonal variations of low-level clouds off the Peru coast are mainly caused by a large seasonal variability in sea surface temperature, whereas those off the California coast are largely attributed to the seasonal cycle in lower-tropospheric temperature.