Effects of land use in Southwest Australia: 1. Observations of cumulus cloudiness and energy fluxes

Deepak K. Ray, Udaysankar S. Nair, Ronald M. Welch, Qingyuan Han, Jian Zeng, Wenying Su, Tokio Kikuchi, Tom J. Lyons

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72 Scopus citations


The Southwest Australian region has large homogeneous tracts of differing vegetation types separated by a sharp transition called the vermin or bunny fence which runs for almost 750 km. Seasonal winter agriculture is found to the west of the fence, whereas to the east native perennial vegetation grows. Geostationary Meteorological Satellite-5 imagery are used to construct monthly cumulus cloud frequency of occurrence maps for the region 0800 to 1500 LT in hourly increments for 1999 and 2000. Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) imagery are used to retrieve regional values of surface temperature, albedo, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, fractional soil moisture availability, sensible and latent heat fluxes. High spatial resolution Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) imagery are used to retrieve detailed values along the fence. MODIS imagery also is utilized to retrieve cloud optical thickness, droplet sizes, and liquid water paths. This study shows that higher soil moisture availability is found over agricultural areas during winter (September) and over native vegetation areas during summer (December). Latent heat fluxes are higher over native vegetation than over agricultural areas during summer, while sensible heat fluxes are lower. Cumulus clouds occur with higher frequency and have higher optical thicknesses, cloud liquid water contents, and effective radii over agricultural areas during the winter and over native perennial vegetation during the dry summer. This is due to higher latent heat fluxes and available energy over agriculture during winter and over native vegetation during summer. We conclude that land use differences result in differences in available soil moisture and surface energy fluxes, which in turn lead to the observed preferential enhancement of cumulus cloudiness and cumulus cloud properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)ACL 5-1 - ACL 5-20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number14
StatePublished - 2003


  • Cloud formation
  • Cloud properties
  • Land use
  • Land-atmosphere interaction
  • Soil moisture
  • Surface energy fluxes


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