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How has subtropical stratocumulus and associated meteorology changed since the 1980s?

TitleHow has subtropical stratocumulus and associated meteorology changed since the 1980s?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsSeethala C., Norris J.R, Myers T.A
JournalJournal of Climate
Date Published2015/11
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0894-8755
Accession NumberWOS:000363766200006
Keywordsclimate change; Cloud cover; Cloud retrieval; era-interim; filters; liquid water path; lower-tropospheric stability; marine low cloud; Multidecadal variability; numerical aspects; part i; Reanalysis data; recursive; Satellite observations; sea-surface temperature; Stratiform clouds; variational statistical-analysis

The importance of low-level cloud feedbacks to climate sensitivity motivates an investigation of how low-level cloud amount and related meteorological conditions have changed in recent decades in subtropical stratocumulus regions. Using satellite cloud datasets corrected for inhomogeneities, it is found that during 1984-2009 low-level cloud amount substantially increased over the northeastern Pacific, southeastern Pacific, and southeastern Atlantic; decreased over the northeastern Atlantic; and weakly increased over the southeastern Indian Ocean subtropical stratocumulus regions. Examination of meteorological parameters from four reanalyses indicates that positive trends in low-level cloud amount are associated with cooler sea surface temperature, greater inversion strength, and enhanced cold-air advection. The converse holds for negative trends in low-level cloud amount. A multilinear regression model based on these three meteorological variables reproduces the sign and magnitude of observed cloud amount trends in all stratocumulus regions within the range of observational uncertainty. Changes in inversion strength have the largest independent effect on cloud trends, followed by changes in advection strength. Changes in sea surface temperature have the smallest independent effect on cloud trends. Differing signs of cloud trends and differing contributions from meteorological parameters suggest that observed changes in subtropical stratocumulus since the 1980s may be due to natural variability rather than a systematic response to climate change.

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