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Annual Climatology of the Diurnal Cycle on the Canadian Prairies

We show the annual climatology of the diurnal cycle, stratified by opaque cloud, using the full hourly resolution of the Canadian Prairie data. The opaque cloud field itself has distinct cold and warm season diurnal climatologies; with a near-sunrise peak of cloud in the cold season and an early afternoon peak in the warm season. There are two primary climate states on the Canadian Prairies, separated by the freezing point of water, because a reflective surface snow cover acts as a climate switch. Both cold and warm season climatologies can be seen in the transition months of November, March and April with a large difference in mean temperature. In the cold season with snow, the diurnal ranges of temperature and relative humidity increase quasi-linearly with decreasing cloud, and increase from December to March with increased solar forcing. The warm season months, April to September, show a homogeneous coupling to the cloud cover, and a diurnal cycle of temperature and humidity that depends only on net longwave. Our improved representation of the diurnal cycle shows that the warm season coupling between diurnal temperature range and net longwave is weakly quadratic through the origin, rather than the linear coupling shown in earlier papers. We calculate the conceptually important 24-h imbalances of temperature and relative humidity (and other thermodynamic variables) as a function of opaque cloud cover. In the warm season under nearly clear skies, there is a warming of +2oC and a drying of -6% over the 24-h cycle, which is about 12% of their diurnal ranges. We summarize results on conservedvariable diagrams and explore the impact of surface windspeed on the diurnal cycle in the cold and warm seasons. In all months, the fall in minimum temperature is reduced with increasing windspeed, which reduces the diurnal temperature range. In July and August, there is an increase of afternoon maximum temperature and humidity at low windspeeds, and a corresponding rise in equivalent potential temperature of 4.4K that appears coupled to increased precipitation. However overcast skies are associated with the major rain events and higher windspeeds.

This is a reprint of Betts and Tawfik (2016) (which was open access) by Vide Leaf Books to improve availability in Asia.The hourly Prairie dataset and derived daily files (90meg) is archived at Vide Leaf at


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Full Citation

Alan K. Betts, Ahmed B. Tawfik (2020) Annual Climatology of the Diurnal Cycle on the Canadian Prairies. In: Liu Chenming, Editor. Earth and its Atmosphere. Hyderabad, India: Vide Leaf. 2020.