Climatology and changes in cloud cover in the area of the Black, Caspian, and Aral seas (1991-2010): a comparison of surface observations with satellite and reanalysis products

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This article presents a climatology of total cloud cover (TCC) in the area of the three inland Eurasian seas (Black, Caspian, and Aral Sea). Analyses are performed on the basis of 20 years of data (1991<br>2010), collected from almost 200 ground stations. Average TCC is 49%, with broad spatial and seasonal variability: minimum TCC values are found in summer and to the southeast, whereas maximum values correspond to winter and to the northwest. For the whole area, linear trend analyses show that TCC did not vary during the study period. We only detected a statistically significant positive trend (+1.2% decade−1) in autumn. We obtained different results for the regions delimited by means of a principal component analysis: a clear decrease, both for the annual, spring, and summer series, was detected for the south of Black Sea, while increasing TCC was found for the annual, autumn, and winter series in the north Caucasus and the west and north of Black Sea. We also analysed the TCC data from global gridded products, including satellite projects [International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP), Pathfinder Atmospheres Extended (PATMOS-x), cLoud, Albedo & Radiation (CLARA)], reanalyses [ERA-interim, National Centers for Environmental Prediction/Department of Energy (NCEP/DOE), Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA)], and surface observations [Climatic Research Unit (CRU)]. Although all these products capture the seasonal evolution over the study area, they differ substantially both among them and in relation to the ground observations: reanalyses produce much lower values of TCC, while ISCCP and CLARA provide a summer minimum that is too high. Trend analyses applied to these data generally showed a decrease in TCC; only CRU and NCEP/DOE tally with the ground data as regards the absence of overall trends. These results are discussed in relation to previous studies presenting trends of other variables such as sunshine duration, diurnal temperature range, or precipitation; we also discuss the connections with changes in synoptic patterns and environmental changes, in particular in the Aral Sea region ​
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