Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 38, Issue 6, pp 1509–1528 | Cite as

Shallow Circulations: Relevance and Strategies for Satellite Observation

  • Gilles BellonEmail author
  • Oliver Reitebuch
  • Ann Kristin Naumann


Shallow circulations are central to many tropical cloud systems. We investigate the potential of existing and upcoming data to document these circulations. Different methods to observe or constrain atmospheric circulations rely on satellite-borne instruments. Direct observations of the wind are currently possible at the ocean surface or using tracer patterns. Satellite-borne wind lidar will soon be available, with a much better coverage and accuracy. Meanwhile, circulations can be constrained using satellite observations of atmospheric diabatic heating. We evaluate the commonalities and discrepancies of these estimates together with reanalysis in systems that include shallow circulations. It appears that existing datasets are in qualitative agreement, but that they still differ too much to provide robust evaluation criteria for general circulation models. This state of affairs highlights the potential of satellite-borne wind lidar and of further work on current satellite retrievals.


Shallow circulations Winds Diabatic heating 



This paper arises from the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) Workshop on Shallow clouds and water vapor, circulation and climate sensitivity. G. B. acknowledges the support of the Pacific Fund grant Pluvar and the support of H. Glavish. A. K. N. was supported by the Hans-Ertel Centre for Weather Research. This research network of universities, research institutes and the Deutscher Wetterdienst is funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI). Thanks are extended to Yi Song for her help with the CSH data.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)Institut für Physik der AtmosphäreWesslingGermany
  3. 3.Max Planck Institute for MeteorologyHamburgGermany

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