Low-cloud transitions across the Kuroshio Front in the East China Sea

TitleLow-cloud transitions across the Kuroshio Front in the East China Sea
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsLiu J.W, Xie SP, Yang S., Zhang S.P
JournalJournal of Climate
Date Published2016/06
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0894-8755
Accession NumberWOS:000377796700007
Keywordscalipso lidar; equatorial pacific; gulf-stream; lower-tropospheric stability; marine boundary-layer; ocean; satellite-observations; seasonal-variations; surface; temperature; yellow sea

The East China Sea Kuroshio (ECSK) flows in the East Asian monsoon region where the background atmospheric circulation varies significantly with season. A sea surface temperature (SST) front associated with the ECSK becomes narrower and sharper from winter to spring. The present study investigates how low clouds respond to the ECSK front in different seasons by synthesizing spaceborne lidar and surface visual observations. The results reveal prominent cross-frontal transitions in low clouds, which exhibit distinct behavior between winter and spring. In winter, cloud responses are generally confined below 4 km by the strong background descending motion and feature a gradual cloud-top elevation from the cold to the warm flank of the front. The ice clouds on the cold flank of the ECSK front transform into liquid water clouds and rain on the warm flank. The springtime clouds, by contrast, are characterized by a sharp cross-frontal transition with deep clouds reaching up to 7 km over the ECSK. In both winter and spring, the low-cloud morphology exhibits a large transformation from the cold to the warm flank of the ECSK front, including increases in cloud-top height, a decline in smoothness of cloud top, and the transition from stratiform to convective clouds. All this along with the atmospheric soundings indicates that the decoupling of the marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL) is more prevalent on the warm flank of the front. Thus, long-term observations reveal prominent cross-frontal low-cloud transitions in morphology associated with MABL decoupling that resemble a large-scale cloud-regime transition over the eastern subtropical Pacific.

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