Precipitation and latent heating characteristics of the major tropical western Pacific cloud regimes Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract An objective tropical cloud regime classification based on daytime averaged cloud-top pressure and optical thickness information from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) is combined with precipitation and latent heating characteristics derived using the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Precipitation Radar (PR). TRMM precipitation information is stratified into the ISCCP regimes in the tropical western Pacific (TWP), revealing the following three major precipitation regimes: a heavy (12 mm day1) precipitation regime dominated by stratiform precipitation and top-heavy latent heating; a regime with moderate (5 mm day1) precipitation amounts, mostly convective in nature with more midlevel latent heating; and a low (2 mm day1) precipitation regime with a relatively large rain contribution from shallow convection, compared to the other regimes. Although three of the ISCCP cloud regimes are linked to the more convective, moderate precipitation regime, only one of the cloud regimes is associated with the more stratiform, top-heavy latent heating regime, making the ISCCP regimes a potentially useful tool for the further study of this dynamically important tropical weather state. Similarly, only one cloud regime is associated with the more shallow convective precipitation regime. In terms of the TWP, precipitation and latent heating are dominated by the relatively infrequent (15%) occurrence of the strongly precipitating top-heavy latent heating state and by the frequent (<30%) occurrence of one of the more moderately precipitating convective states. The low precipitation/shallow cumulus regime occurs often (i.e., 25% of the time) but does not contribute strongly to the overall precipitation and latent heating. Each of these regimes also shows distinct geographical patterns in the TWP, thus providing insight into the distribution of convective and stratiform rain across the tropics. This study confirms the potential usefulness of the objective regime classification based on ISCCP, and it opens several new avenues for studying the interaction of convection with the large-scale tropical circulation.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Jakob, C., & Schumacher, C.

citation count

  • 54

complete list of authors

  • Jakob, Christian||Schumacher, Courtney

publication date

  • September 2008