Eastern Pacific Ship Track Climatology and Sea Surface Temperature (SST) Variations

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 11:00 AM
211B West Building (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Adrienne K. Tucker, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

This investigation quantifies the impact of SST variations on ship tracks in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Ship tracks are “anomalous cloud lines” that are produced by effluents from ship stacks. These tracks form in marine stratocumulus clouds by altering the microphysical properties of the existing clouds. They increase albedo and decrease the size of atmospheric particles. West coasts of continents provide prime areas for ship track formation due to the prevalence of marine stratocumulus clouds. Ship track frequency, length, areal coverage, and tendency to occur in outbreaks are analyzed in relation to variations in SSTs. Visible satellite imagery is used to determine ship track presence. ImageJ software is used for visible imagery analysis, and NOAA Earth Systems Research Laboratory (ESRL) data generates SST average information. Results show statistically significant negative relationships between SSTs and ship track length and tendency to be part of an outbreak. A Principle Component Analysis (PCA) also shows that ship tracks are more likely to form in the southeast corner of the study region where anomalously low SSTs exist. This study develops the understanding of the influence of SST on anthropogenic atmospheric modifications using a satellite-based approach. The research generates enhanced knowledge of shipping industry impacts on the climate system.