92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012: 8:30 AM
Clouds, Aerosol, Radiation, Rain and Climate: Important Perspectives From Satellite Observations (invited)
Room 256 (New Orleans Convention Center )
Graeme Stephens, JPL/California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

The cloud systems of our planet fundamentally shape our climate in the way they affect the flow of radiation in and out of the planet and in the way they connect key processes together to form the hydrological cycle. Despite the many years of cloud observations from space, the insight gained into these key roles and processes that influence them has been limited. Information about cloud particle size from satellite radiometers, for example, has been derived now for more than two decades but whether or not this information is in fact related to real cloud physical properties has been less convincingly. Nevertheless correlation between this remote sensing particle size information and aerosol content now serves as a basis for parameterization of the so-called indirect effects in climate models, a key tuning knob of model sensitivity. Similarly we have also observed precipitation from space for many years but have not been able to tie these observations to actual cloud physical processes and thus precipitation observations alone offer only limited insight into how precipitation is likely to be shaped by the broader environment in which it forms. This talk will emphasize how key insights on the important cloud-climate processes have emerged from use of multiple sources of data linked together. The emphasis is on the use of the A-Train of satellites and it will be argued that combinations of data from radar, lidar and radiometers now provide the tools to advance understanding moving beyond these past limitations. The microphysical content of satellite observations will be revealed and the ability to probe into the rain formation processes will be highlighted. These new insights will also be overlain on the performance of current climate models and the predictions of precipitation change associated with global warming.

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