Articles | Volume 11, issue 19
Research article
06 Oct 2011
Research article |  | 06 Oct 2011

Cirrus cloud-temperature interactions in the tropical tropopause layer: a case study

J. R. Taylor, W. J. Randel, and E. J. Jensen

Abstract. Thin cirrus clouds in the Tropical Tropopause Layer (TTL) have important ramifications for radiative transfer, stratospheric humidity, and vertical transport. A horizontally extensive and vertically thin cirrus cloud in the TTL was detected by the Cloud Aerosol LIDAR and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) on 27–29 January 2009 in the Tropical Eastern Pacific region, distant from any regions of deep convection. These observations indicate that the cloud is close to 3000 km in length along the CALIPSO orbit track. Measurements over this three day period indicate that the cloud event extended over a region from approximately 15° S to 10° N and 90° W to 150° W and may be one of the most extensive cirrus events ever observed. Coincident temperature observations from the Constellation of Observing Satellites for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate (COSMIC) suggest that the cloud formed in-situ as a result of a cold anomaly arising from a midlatitude intrusion. The event appears to last for up to 2 days and the temperature observations do not show any indication of the expected infrared heating. It is hypothesized that the cloud could be maintained by either nucleation of numerous small ice crystals that don't sediment or by multiple localized ice nucleation events driven by temperature variability at scales smaller than the overall cloud field, producing small ice-crystal sizes which have sufficiently long residence times (≈53 h) to maintain the cloud. It is possible that the residence times are augmented by vertical motion which could also act to offset the expected infrared heating. Further observations of similar events will be required in order to conclusively explain this curious cloud.

Final-revised paper