A record of single-layer and overcast low cloud (stratus) properties has been generated using approximately 4000 h of data collected from January 1997 to December 2002 at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Southern Great Plains Central Facility (SCF). The cloud properties include liquid-phase and liquid-dominant mixed-phase low cloud macrophysical, microphysical, and radiative properties including cloud-base and -top heights and temperatures, and cloud physical thickness derived from a ground-based radar and lidar pair, and rawinsonde sounding; cloud liquid water path (LWP) and content (LWC), and cloud-droplet effective radius (re) and number concentration (N) derived from the macrophysical properties and radiometer data; and cloud optical depth (τ), effective solar transmission (γ), and cloud/ top-of-atmosphere albedos (Rcldy/RTOA) derived from Eppley precision spectral pyranometer measurements. The cloud properties were analyzed in terms of their seasonal, monthly, and hourly variations. In general, more stratus clouds occur during winter and spring than in summer. Cloud-layer altitudes and physical thicknesses were higher and greater in summer than in winter with averaged physical thicknesses of 0.85 and 0.73 km for day and night, respectively. The seasonal variations of LWP, LWC, N, τ, Rcldy, and RTOA basically follow the same pattern with maxima and minima during winter and summer, respectively. There is no significant variation in mean re, however, despite a summertime peak in aerosol loading. Although a considerable degree of variability exists, the 6-yr average values of LWP, LWC, re, N, τ, γ, Rcldy, and RTOA are 151 gm-2 (138), 0.245 gm-3 (0.268), 8.7 μm (8.5), 213 cm-3 (238), 26.8 (24.8), 0.331, 0.672, and 0.563 for daytime (nighttime). A new conceptual model of midlatitude continental low clouds at the ARM SGP site has been developed from this study. The low stratus cloud amount monotonically increases from midnight to early morning (0930 LT), and remains large until around local noon, then declines until 1930 LT when it levels off for the remainder of the night. In the morning, the stratus cloud layer is low, warm, and thick with less LWC, while in the afternoon it is high, cold, and thin with more LWC. Future parts of this series will consider other cloud types and cloud radiative forcing at the ARM SCF.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atmospheric Science