Low-level cloud response to the Gulf Stream front in winter using CALIPSO

TitleLow-level cloud response to the Gulf Stream front in winter using CALIPSO
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsLiu J.W, Xie SP, Norris J.R, Zhang S.P
JournalJournal of Climate
Date Published2014/06
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0894-8755
Accession NumberWOS:000337659200006
Keywordsboundary-layer; Climatology; cycle; gradients; impact; ocean; stratocumulus; surface observations; temperature; winds

A sharp sea surface temperature front develops between the warm water of the Gulf Stream and cold continental shelf water in boreal winter. This front has a substantial impact on the marine boundary layer. The present study analyzes and synthesizes satellite observations and reanalysis data to examine how the sea surface temperature front influences the three-dimensional structure of low-level clouds. The Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) satellite captures a sharp low-level cloud transition across the Gulf Stream front, a structure frequently observed under the northerly condition. Low-level cloud top (<4 km) increases by about 500 m from the cold to the warm flank of the front. The sea surface temperature front induces a secondary low-level circulation through sea level pressure adjustment with ascending motion over the warm water and descending motion over cold water. The secondary circulation further contributes to the cross-frontal transition of low-level clouds. Composite analysis shows that surface meridional advection over the front plays an important role in the development of the marine atmospheric boundary layer and low-level clouds. Under cold northerly advection over the Gulf Stream front, strong near-surface instability leads to a well-mixed boundary layer over the Gulf Stream, causing southward deepening of low-level clouds across the sea surface temperature front. Moreover, the front affects the freezing level by transferring heat to the atmosphere and therefore influences the cross-frontal variation of the cloud phase.

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