Original paper

Cloud Cover Diurnal Cycles in Satellite Data and Regional Climate Model Simulations

Pfeifroth, Uwe; Hollmann, Rainer; Ahrens, Bodo

Meteorologische Zeitschrift Vol. 21 No. 6 (2012), p. 551 - 560

published: Dec 1, 2012

DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2012/0423

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The amount and diurnal cycle of cloud cover play an important role in the energy and water cycle of the earth-atmosphere system and influence the radiation budget of the earth. Due to its importance and the challenging nature of its quantification, cloud cover is considered the biggest uncertainty factor in climate modeling. There is a clear need for reliable cloud datasets suitable for climate model evaluation studies. This study analyzes two datasets of cloud cover and its diurnal cycle derived from satellite observations by the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) and by EUMETSAT's Satellite Application Facility on Climate Monitoring (CM SAF) in Africa and Europe. Two regions, Europe and the subtropical southern Atlantic Ocean, were identified as offering distinct cloud cover diurnal cycles reasonably observed by both satellite datasets. In these regions, simulations by the regional climate model COSMO-CLM (CCLM) were evaluated in terms of cloud cover and its diurnal cycle during the time period of 1990 to 2007. Results show that the satellite derived cloud diurnal cycles largely agree, while discrepancies occur under extreme conditions like in the Sahara region. The CCLM is able to simulate the diurnal cycle observed consistently in the two satellite datasets in the South-Atlantic ocean, but not in Europe. CCLM misses the afternoon maximum cloud cover in Summer in Europe, which implies deficiencies in the parameterization of convection and in the treatment of surface-atmosphere interactions. The simulation of the diurnal cycle of the more stratiform cloud cover over the subtropical Atlantic was satisfactory in CCLM.


cloudsregional climate modelsatellite datadiurnal cycle