We used the State University of New York at Albany (SUNYA) regional climate model to study the effect of cloud vertical distribution in affecting the surface energy balance of the East Asia summer monsoon (EASM). Simulations were conducted for the summers of 1988 and 1989, during which large contrast in the intra-seasonal cloud radiative forcing (CRF) was observed at the top of the atmosphere.
The model results indicate that both the high and low clouds are persistent throughout the summer months in both years. Because of large cloud water, low clouds significantly reduce the solar radiation flux reaching the surface, which nevertheless still dominate the surface energy balance, accounting for more than 50% of the surface heating. The low clouds also contribute significantly the downward longwave radiation to the surface with values strongly dependent on the cloud base temperature. The presence of low clouds effectively decreases the temperature and moisture gradients near surface, resulting in a substantial decrease in the sensible and latent heat fluxes from surface, which partially compensate the decrease of the net radiative cooling of the surface. For example, in the two days, May 8 and July 11 of 1988, the total cloud cover of 80% is simulated, but the respective low cloud cover (water) was 63% (114 gm-2) and 22% (21 gm-2). As a result, the downward solar radiation is smaller by 161 Wm-2 in May 8. On the other hand, the cloud temperature was 10°C lower, yielding 56 Wm-2 smaller downward longwave radiation. The near surface temperature and gradient is more than 1°C smaller (and moisture gradient), leading to 21 and 81 Wm-2 smaller sensible heat and latent heat fluxes.
It is also demonstrated that the model is capable to reproduce the intraseasonal variation of shortwave CRF, and catches the relationship between total cloud cover and SW CRF. The model results show the dominance of high cloud on the regional mean longwave CRF and low cloud on the intra-seasonal variation of shortwave CRF, indicating the importance of cloud vertical structure.
The strong negative feedbacks from the responses of latent and sensible heat flux tend to limit the effects of low clouds on the surface temperature simulations, as evidently the surface air temperatures bias of only 0.34°C in the EASM simulations while the variances of the surface radiative fluxes and heat fluxes are, respectively, in the ranges of 100 - 200 and 60 - 110 Wm-2 when total cloud cover are all near 80%. Therefore, it is also concluded that surface air temperature, precipitation, and total cloud cover, which are three frequently examined variables for climate models, are not sufficient for model evaluation, but instead the cloud vertical structure needs to be examined.