Ocean frontal effects on the vertical development of clouds over the western North Pacific: In situ and satellite observations

Hiroki Tokinaga, Youichi Tanimoto, Shang Ping Xie, Takeaki Sampe, Hiroyuki Tomita, Hiroshi Ichikawa

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A suite of shipboard and satellite observations are analyzed and synthesized to investigate the three-dimensional structure of clouds and influences from sea surface temperature fronts over the western North Pacific. Sharp transitions are observed across the Kuroshio Extension (KE) front in the marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL) and its clouds. The ocean's influence appears to extend beyond the MABL, with higher cloud tops in altitude along the KE front than the surroundings. In winter, intense turbulent heat release from the ocean takes place on the southern flank of the KE front, where the cloud top penetrates above the MABL and reaches the midtroposphere. In this band of high cloud tops, frequent lightning activity is observed. The results of this study suggest a sea level pressure mechanism for which the temperature gradient in the MABL induces strong surface wind convergence on the southern flank of the KE front, deepening the clouds there. In early summer, sea fog frequently occurs on the northern flank of the subtropical KE and subarctic fronts under southerly warm advection that suppresses surface heat flux and stabilizes the surface atmosphere. Sea fog is infrequently observed over the KE front even under southerly conditions, as the warm ocean current weakens atmospheric stratification and promotes vertical mixing. The KE front produces a narrow band of surface wind convergence, helping support a broad band of upward motion at 700 hPa that is associated with the eastward extension of the baiu rainband from Japan in June-July.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4241-4260
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2009


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science

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