2002 Annual

Tuesday, 15 January 2002: 4:01 PM
Cloud structure anomalies over the tropical Pacific during the 1997/98 El Nino
Robert D. Cess, SUNY, Stony Brook, NY; and M. H. Zhang, P. H. Wang, and B. A. Wielicki
Satellite measurements of both cloud vertical structure and cloud-radiative forcing have been used to show that during the strong 1997/98 El Nino there was a substantial change in cloud vertical structure over the tropical Pacific Ocean. Relative to normal years, cloud altitudes were lower in the western portion of the Pacific and higher in the eastern portion. The reason for these redistributions was a collapse of the Walker circulation and enhanced large-scale upward motion over the eastern Pacific, both caused by the lack of a zonal sea surface temperature gradient during the El Nino. It is proposed that these cloud structure changes, which significantly impact satellite measurements of the tropical Pacificís radiation budget, would serve as one useful means of testing cloud-climate interactions in climate models.

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