Observed Signatures of the Barotropic and Baroclinic Annular Modes in Cloud Vertical Structure and Cloud Radiative Effects

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The signatures of large-scale annular variability on the vertical structure of clouds and cloud radiative effects are examined in vertically resolved CloudSat and other satellite and reanalysis data products. The northern and southern “barotropic” annular modes (the NAM and SAM) have a complex vertical structure. Both are associated with a meridional dipole in clouds between subpolar and middle latitudes, but the sign of the anomalies changes between upper, middle, and lower tropospheric levels. In contrast, the northern and southern baroclinic annular modes have a much simpler vertical structure. Both are linked to same-signed anomalies in clouds extending throughout the troposphere at middle to high latitudes. The changes in cloud incidence associated with both the barotropic and baroclinic annular modes are consistent with dynamical forcing by the attendant changes in static stability and/or vertical motion. The results also provide the first observational estimates of the vertically resolved atmospheric cloud radiative effects associated with hemispheric-scale extratropical variability. In general, the anomalies in atmospheric cloud radiative effects associated with the annular modes peak in the middle to upper troposphere, and are consistent with the anomalous trapping of longwave radiation by variations in upper tropospheric clouds. The southern baroclinic annular mode gives rise to periodic behavior in longwave cloud radiative effects at the top of the atmosphere averaged over Southern Hemisphere midlatitudes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4723–4740
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016

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