Journal of Meteorological Research

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 433–445 | Cite as

Microphysical Properties of Convective Clouds in Summer over the Tibetan Plateau from SNPP/VIIRS Satellite Data

  • Zhiguo Yue
  • Xing YuEmail author
  • Guihua Liu
  • Jin Dai
  • Yannian Zhu
  • Xiaohong Xu
  • Ying Hui
  • Chuang Chen
Special Collection on the Third Tibetan Plateau Atmospheric Science Experiment (TIPEX-III)


The Tibetan Plateau (TP) plays an important role in formation and development of the East Asian atmospheric circulation, climate variability, and disastrous weathers in China. Among the many topics on TP meteorology, it is critical to understand the microphysical characteristics of clouds over the TP; however, observations of the cloud micro-physics in this area are insufficient mainly due to sparse stations and limited cloud physical data. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), onboard the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (SNPP) satellite, has an improved imaging spectroradiometer with 17 channels of 750-m moderate resolution and 5 channels of 375-m image resolution. The high-resolution instrument has an advantage for observing the small or initial convective clouds. Based on the methodologies that we proposed before for retrieving cloud microphysical properties from SNPP, an automated mapping software package named Automatic Mapping of Convective Clouds (AMCC) has been developed at the scale of satellite swath. The properties of convective clouds are retrieved by AMCC and their values are averaged over 0.33° × 0.33° grids based on the SNPP/VIIRS satellite data over the TP during the summers of 2013–17. The results show that: (1) the temperature of lifting condensation level (TLCL) at Naqu meteorological station and the cloud base temperature (Tb) retrieved from VIIRS are linearly correlated, with a correlation coefficient of 0.87 and standard deviation (STD) of 3.0°C; (2) convective clouds over the TP have the following macro- and micro-physical properties. First, the cloud base temperature (Tb) is about −5°C, the cloud base height above the ground (Hb) ranges between 1800 and 2200 m, and the cloud water content is low. Second, the cloud condensation nuclei concentration (NCCN) is between 200 and 400 mg−1 with 0.7% in maximum supersaturation (Smax); consequently, the condensation growth of water cloud droplet with less NCCN and higher Smax is fast. Third, because the precipitation initiation depth (D14) varies within 1500–2000 m and 500–1000 m at the Yarlung Zangbo River basin and southern Tibet, respectively, the clouds over these areas are more prone to precipitation. Fourth, mean height of the cloud top above sea level (Htop) is between 10 and 13 km, but the cloud depth (Dcld) is rather small, which is about 5000 m in southern TP and gradually reduces to 2500 m in northern TP. Fifth, the glaciation temperature (Tg) ranges from −30°C in central and southern TP to −25°C in northern TP, which, combined with the warmer Tg and the Tb less than 0°C, leads to the domination of ice process in the clouds; (3) the macro- and microphysical properties of convective clouds over the TP explain why rainfall there is frequent and lasts over a short time with small amount and large rain drops.

Key words

Tibetan Plateau Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) retrieval of cloud microphysical properties convective cloud cloud base temperature cloud condensation nuclei 



We acknowledge usage of the NOAA CLASS VIIRS LIB data, the NCEP FNL analysis data, and the intensive observational data from the TIPEX-III organized by the China Meteorological Administration.


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Copyright information

© The Chinese Meteorological Society and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhiguo Yue
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xing Yu
    • 2
    Email author
  • Guihua Liu
    • 2
  • Jin Dai
    • 2
  • Yannian Zhu
    • 2
  • Xiaohong Xu
    • 2
  • Ying Hui
    • 2
  • Chuang Chen
    • 2
  1. 1.Meteorological Institute of Shaanxi ProvinceXi’anChina
  2. 2.Office of Weather Modification of Shaanxi ProvinceXi’anChina

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