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Cloud cover over the Tibetan Plateau and eastern China: a comparison of ERA5 and ERA-Interim with satellite observations


This study examines the progress made by reanalyses and satellite products in the estimation of cloud cover over China: the ECMWF reanalyses ERA5 and ERA-Interim, geostationary satellite observation Himawari-8 (H8) and the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project H-series (ISCCP) product. There is great similarity in spatial patterns of cloud cover in reanalyses and satellite observations, especially between ERA5 and H8. Distinct characteristics of the seasonal evolution of cloud cover are shown over the Tibetan Plateau (TP), the southeast (SE) and northeast (NE) of China. Differences in magnitudes of cloud cover exist. Overestimations are about 10% for reanalyses and about 20% for ISCCP in compared with certain cloud cover in H8. When probable cloud (about 10%) in H8 is included in the estimation, biases reduce the most in ERA5. The cloud hit rate (CHR) and false alarm rate (FAR) in against H8 and ISCCP reveal that simulated clouds in ERA5 have been improved especially over eastern China, but with limited improvement over TP in compared with ERA-Interim. Diurnal variations of cloud cover are characterized by increases during daytime over those three regions. Amplifications of diurnal variation vary over different regions and months. Satellite observations and ERA5 indicate distinguished diurnal cycle of cloud cover over TP, while further investigation based on ERA5 reveals coherent diurnal cycle in meteorological environment. Long-term changes of cloud cover highlight decreasing trends over TP and particular during March in past decades based on ISCCP and ERA5, which require further investigation in future.

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This study was jointly supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no. 41501388) and National Key Basic Research Program of China (2018YFA0605400). I am especially grateful to Drs. K. Yang and Y. M. Liu for their continuous encouragement throughout the study. I would like to thank anonymous reviewers whose comments will lead to its further improvement.

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Correspondence to Yonghui Lei.

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Lei, Y., Letu, H., Shang, H. et al. Cloud cover over the Tibetan Plateau and eastern China: a comparison of ERA5 and ERA-Interim with satellite observations. Clim Dyn (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-020-05149-x

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  • Cloud cover
  • ERA5
  • ERA-Interim
  • Himawari-8
  • ISCCP H-series
  • Tibet