Origin and transport of tropical cirrus clouds observed over Paramaribo, Suriname (5.8°N, 55.2°W)

J.P.F. Fortuin, C.R. Becker, M. Fujiwara, F. Immler, H.M. Kelder, M.P. Scheele, O. Schrems, G.H.L. Verver

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13 Citations (Scopus)


The Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) passes twice a year over tropical Suriname, bringing two wet and two dry seasons. During a pilot study campaign in Suriname, cirrus clouds were observed with a mobile aerosol Raman lidar (MARL) and with balloon sondes containing a frost point hygrometer called Snow White, over the period October-November 2004. These observations are used to study the origin of cirrus clouds and the dynamical processes that determine their transport, using European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) operational analyses. The height of cirrus occurrence is in phase with the height of the cold point tropopause, with maximum heights occurring during Northern Hemisphere winter that are about 2 km above the minimum values in summertime. The occurrence of cirrus often corresponds with a northerly meridional wind flow (in a layer underneath the tropopause), also when the ITCZ lies to the south in the period January-May. ECMWF analyses point out that inertial instability flow, in the form of vertically stacked meridional circulation cells in the upper troposphere (UT), can explain the transport of these cirrus events. Also evident is that radiative cooling of a moist layer transported in the UT leads to a thermal wind in the form of an easterly/westerly jet associated with the southward/northward transport of moist air. An interactive play between the inertial instability and thermal wind mechanisms explains many of the observed features of cirrus occurrence over Suriname. The observed cirrus mostly originates from the ITCZ or from deep convective centers to the south that form during the early summer monsoon.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberD09107
Pages (from-to)D09107-1/19
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research. D, Atmospheres
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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