Dominant influence of Pacific climate modes on global observed and reanalysis cloud cover fields
Abstract. Global cloud cover represents a critical component of the climate system, with a considerable impact on the Earth's radiation budget. Small changes in clouds properties have a significant climatological impact because of the feedbacks that they generate, thus it is difficult to simulate the global cloud cover evolution in general circulation models. Observational investigations of cloud processes are constrained either by limited temporal and spatial extension of ground-based measurements or by imperfections in satellite data, like changes in geostationary satellite zenith angle, equatorial crossing time, or calibration. In this study, we used the Empirical Orthogonal Functions method to separate global patterns of total cloud cover variability in two satellite datasets from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project and the Pathfinder Atmospheres–Extended projects, each corrected for specific errors, and in the ERA5 Reanalysis. The first two modes explain most of the variance from what could be considered “signal” in both satellite data. Through Canonical Correlation Analysis, they are associated in a physically consistent manner with two different types of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), namely the canonical ENSO which manifests itself in the eastern tropical Pacific and the El-Niño Modiki which manifest itself in the central Pacific. This work provides a comprehensive picture of the relationship between global total cloud cover and the tropical Pacific processes and indicates that cloud cover in the Indo-Pacific sector plays a significant role in the Earth radiative budget at interannual to decadal time scales. The similarity of the results across satellite and reanalysis data indicate that the both the observed and reanalysis cloud data sets contain consistent and valuable information related to global climate variability.
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