Distribution and Radiative Forcing of Tropical Thin Cirrus Clouds Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractTo understand the radiative impact of tropical thin cirrus clouds, the frequency of occurrence and optical depths of these clouds have been derived. Thin cirrus clouds are defined here as being those that are not detected by the operational Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) cloud mask, corresponding to an optical depth value of approximately 0.3 or smaller, but that are detectable in terms of the cirrus reflectance product based on the MODIS 1.375-m channel. With such a definition, thin cirrus clouds were present in more than 40% of the pixels flagged as clear sky by the operational MODIS cloud mask algorithm. It is shown that these thin cirrus clouds are frequently observed in deep convective regions in the western Pacific. Thin cirrus optical depths were derived from the cirrus reflectance product. Regions of significant cloud fraction and large optical depths were observed in the Northern Hemisphere during the boreal spring and summer and moved southward during the boreal autumn and winter. The radiative effects of tropical thin cirrus clouds were studied on the basis of the retrieved cirrus optical depths, the atmospheric profiles derived from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) observations, and a radiative transfer model in conjunction with a parameterization of ice cloud spectral optical properties. To understand how these clouds regulate the radiation field in the atmosphere, the instantaneous net fluxes at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) and at the surface were calculated. The present study shows positive and negative net forcings at the TOA and at the surface, respectively. The positive (negative) net forcing at the TOA (surface) is due to the dominance of longwave (shortwave) forcing. Both the TOA and surface forcings are in a range of 020 W m2, depending on the optical depths of thin cirrus clouds.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Lee, J., Yang, P., Dessler, A. E., Gao, B., & Platnick, S.

citation count

  • 57

complete list of authors

  • Lee, Joonsuk||Yang, Ping||Dessler, Andrew E||Gao, Bo-Cai||Platnick, Steven

publication date

  • December 2009