>Ocean Cloud Cover Data

>The KNMI Climate Explorer webpages contain a wealth of data. The start page is here:
The Monthly Observation data selection page is here:

Included are Cloud Cover data sets from CRU, ICOADS, and ISCCP. This post provides graphs of Ocean Cloud Cover for the globe and numerous subsets based on ICOADS 2-degree enhanced data. The CDC’s webpage is here:

Though the data does run back as far as 1800, it is sporadic until 1950, which is why the following graphs begin in 1950. The KNMI versions are updated as needed or as requested, so the cloud cover data ends mid-year in 2007. This is the reason the graphs of annual data end in 2006. (It would be nice to see what’s happened over the past two years, but I have not requested an update since this is only a blog, not serious data analysis.) The graphs that follow are also based on the raw okta data, not anomalies. An okta is a unit of cloudiness measurement, where a 0 oktas equals clear sky and 8 oktas equals complete cloud cover. OKTAS DO NOT DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN CLOUD TYPE.

I will do a batch of anomaly comparisons in an upcoming post.


Figure 1 illustrates annual Global Ocean Cloud Cover from 1950 to 2006. The trend in cloud cover appears steepest from 1950 to 1960. The upward trend decreases from 1960 to the mid-1970s, then increases again until its peak in 1996, the year before the 1997/98 El Nino. After a dip and rebound, the Global Ocean Cloud Cover dropped steadily from 1998 to 2006.
Figure 1


The Ocean Cloud Cover for the Southern Hemisphere is shown in Figure 2. From 1960 to its peak in 1998, the underlying trend appears exponential. Afterwards, Southern Hemisphere Ocean Cloud Cover dropped through 2006.
Figure 2


In Figure 3, the Ocean Cloud Cover for the Northern Hemisphere is shown. Cloud cover rose quickly from 1950 to 1961. The trend flattened significantly from 1961 to 1983 until the year after the El Chichon volcanic eruption. The flat period coincidentally agrees the period of increased volcanic activity. Northern Hemisphere Ocean Cloud Cover rose again, with a minor fluctuation, until 1992. The severe drop in 1993 appears to be the result from the Mount Pinatubo eruption. Ocean Cloud Cover for the Northern Hemisphere then seems to react to ENSO until 2006.
Figure 3


Figure 4 shows the Tropical Ocean Cloud Cover from 1950 to 2006. The underlying trends are difficult to pick out, but Tropical Ocean Cloud Cover appears to accelerate upwards in the early to mid-1980s, peak in 1996 before the 97/98 El Nino, then peak secondarily in 1999 and 2001, before starting to decrease until 2006.
Figure 4


Figure 5 illustrates Ocean Cloud Cover for the Northern and Southern Hemispheres and Globally. Southern Hemisphere Cloud cover is significantly less than that of the Northern Hemisphere.
Figure 5

The Ocean Cloud Cover for the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans are shown in Figure 6. The Atlantic Cloud Cover is slightly less than the Pacific, but the Indian is significantly less than the other two.

http://i44.tinypic.com/wvb9rs.jpg Figure 6

East and West Tropical Pacific Ocean Cloud Cover data are illustrated in Figure 7. Before 1986, there was a substantial difference between the two data sets, but in 1987, the Eastern Tropical Pacific Cloud Cover rose, reducing the difference.
Figure 7

What happened in 1987?


I found the apparent impact (assumed based on timing) of volcanic aerosols on Northern Hemisphere Ocean Cloud Cover trends, and only the Northern Hemisphere trends to that extent, to be the most interesting find in the ocean cloud cover data that I’ve downloaded so far.

About Bob Tisdale

Research interest: the long-term aftereffects of El Niño and La Nina events on global sea surface temperature and ocean heat content. Author of the ebook Who Turned on the Heat? and regular contributor at WattsUpWithThat.
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3 Responses to >Ocean Cloud Cover Data

  1. Joseph says:

    >”what happened in 1987?”Some believe that cosmic rays can affect cloud cover, by creating more of the nuclei that form into dense clouds. In February 1987 the light (and radiation) from the first naked-eye supernova in almost 400 years, Supernova 1987A, reached Earth. It was visible from the southern hemisphere. It’s brightness peaked in May and then declined. Maybe this had something to do with the increase in cloudiness in the eastern Pacific?

  2. jblethen says:

    >Cloudiness data 2000-2006 would appear to be at odds with albedo data obtained by Project Earthshine.

  3. Bob Tisdale says:

    >Joseph: Thanks for the Supernova info. Interesting timing. I’ll try to narrow down that shift in an upcoming post by looking at monthly data.jblethen: Which types of clouds would the Earthshine project pick up? The okta data does not differentiate between cloud type, just that there were clouds.

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