An Observational View of Relationships Between Moisture Aggregation, Cloud, and Radiative Heating Profiles

  • Matthew D. LebsockEmail author
  • Tristan S. L’Ecuyer
  • Robert Pincus
Part of the Space Sciences Series of ISSI book series (SSSI, volume 65)


Data from several coincident satellite sensors are analyzed to determine the dependence of cloud and precipitation characteristics of tropical regions on the variance in the water vapor field. Increased vapor variance is associated with decreased high cloud fraction and an enhancement of low-level radiative cooling in dry regions of the domain. The result is found across a range of sea surface temperatures and rain rates. This suggests the possibility of an enhanced low-level circulation feeding the moist convecting areas when vapor variance is large. These findings are consistent with idealized models of self-aggregation, in which the aggregation of convection is maintained by a combination of low-level radiative cooling in dry regions and mid-to-upper-level radiative warming in cloudy regions.


Convective aggregation Radiation Water vapor Satellite Observations 


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This paper originates from discussions during the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) Workshop on ‘Shallow clouds and water vapor, circulation and climate sensitivity.’ This research was primarily carried out by ML at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under RTOP/WBS (105357/967701. RP was supported by the National Science Foundation under award ATM-1138394. AMSR data are produced by Remote Sensing Systems and were sponsored by the NASA AMSR-E Science Team and the NASA Earth Science MEaSUREs Program. Data are available at CloudSat data were obtained from the CloudSat Data Processing Center ( MODIS data were obtained from the Goddard DAAC.


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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA
  2. 2.University of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  3. 3.Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental SciencesUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  4. 4.Physical Sciences DivisionNOAA Earth System Research LabBoulderUSA

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