Why Are There More Summer Afternoon Low Clouds Over the Tibetan Plateau Compared to Eastern China?

Yinjun Wang, Xubin Zeng, Xiangde Xu, Joshua Welty, Donald H. Lenschow, Mingyu Zhou, Yang Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


In this study, we analyze the relationships between summer afternoon low cloud cover and environmental conditions over the Tibetan Plateau (TP). Using in situ measurements, satellite data, and reanalysis, and based on theoretical analysis, we find that there is stronger thermal turbulence, lower temperature, and higher frequency of low cloud formation for the same surface relative humidity over the eastern and central TP compared with eastern China. With the same sensible heat flux, decreased air density enhances buoyancy flux, which increases the planetary boundary layer height and moisture vertical transport. At the same time, with the same near-surface relative humidity, lower temperature over the TP decreases the lifting condensation level, which increases the probability of the air parcel reaching this level. Compared to the low-elevation region in eastern China, these two mechanisms enhance low cloud occurrence in the afternoon over the TP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020GL089665
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 16 2020


  • Tibetan Plateau
  • lifting condensation level
  • low cloud cover
  • planetary boundary layer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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