Cloud fraction at the ARM SGP site: Instrument and sampling considerations from 14 years of ARSCL

Aaron D. Kennedy, Xiquan Dong, Baike Xi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program Southern Great Plains (SGP) site has a rich history of actively sensed cloud observations. Fourteen years (1997-2010) of observations from the Millimeter Cloud Radar (MMCR), Micropulse Lidar (MPL), and Belfort/Vaisala Ceilometers are used to understand how instrument selection and sampling impacts estimates of Cloud Fraction (CF) at this location. Although all instruments should be used in combination for the best estimates of CF, instrument downtime limits available samples and increases observational errors, demanding that users make sacrifices when calculating CF at longer intervals relevant to climate studies. Selection of MMCR or MMCR + MPL cloud masks changes very little in the overall understanding of total CF. Addition of the MPL increases the 14-year average CF by 9 %, mainly through an increase in optically thin high clouds year-round, and mid-level clouds during the summer months. Splitting the period into two equal 7-year periods reveals negligible change in MMCR + MPL CF. For the MMCR, however, CF deceases by 6.1 %. This sudden change in CF occurs around the time the radar was upgraded, suggesting that this decrease is tied to hardware sensitivity or scanning strategy changes. Users must be cognizant of this and other issues when calculating CF from the variety of observations available at the ARM SGP site.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-105
Number of pages15
JournalTheoretical and Applied Climatology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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