Cloud cover climatologies in the Mediterranean obtained from satellites, surface observations, reanalyses, and CMIP5 simulations: validation and future scenarios

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Clouds are an important regulator of climate due to their connection to the water balance of the atmosphere and their interaction with solar and infrared radiation. In this study, monthly total cloud cover (TCC) records from different sources have been inter-compared on annual and seasonal basis for the Mediterranean region and the period 1984–2005. Specifically, gridded databases from satellite projects (ISCCP, CLARA, PATMOS-x), from reanalysis products (ERA-Interim, MERRA), and from surface observations over land (EECRA) and ocean (ICOADS) have been examined. Then, simulations from 44 climate runs of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 corresponding to the historical scenario have been compared against the observations. Overall, we find good agreement between the mean values of TCC estimated from the three satellite products and from surface observations, while reanalysis products show much lower values across the region. Nevertheless, all datasets show similar behavior regarding the annual cycle of TCC. In addition, our results indicate an underestimation of TCC from climate model simulations as compared to the satellite products, especially during summertime, although the annual cycle is well simulated by most models. This result is quite general and apparently independent of the cloud parameterizations included in each particular model. Equally, similar results are obtained if the ISCCP simulator included in the Cloud Feedback Model Intercomparison Project Observation Simulator Package is considered, despite only few models provide the post-processed results. Finally, GCM projections of TCC over the Mediterranean are presented. These projections predict a reduction of TCC during the 21st century in the Mediterranean. Specifically, for an extreme emission scenario (RCP8.5) the projected relative rate of TCC decrease is larger than 10 % by the end of the centur ​
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