Sarah Taylor

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Sarah Taylor

Graduate student

I am a doctoral student in Atmospheric Physics working in the Climate Processes group in AOPP. My research is part of the ERC-funded ACCLAIM project and is supervised by Professor Philip Stier.

My work focuses on observational analyses of deep convective cloud lifecycles, including the validation of cloud top property retrievals, quantifying lifecycles of individual convective clouds and investigating potential aerosol effects on convection.

I previously studied at the University of Reading where I obtained MSc in Atmosphere, Ocean and Climate. My dissertation, supervised by Professor Ellie Highwood, investigated the sensitivity of aerosol optical properties to assumptions about aerosol refractive index and hygroscopicity using data from the 2008 EUCAARI-LONGREX aircraft campaign.

Convective clouds are fundamental to tropical weather and climate, playing important roles in the radiation budget, large scale atmospheric circulations and the hydrological cycle. It is difficult to observe the full lifecycle of convective clouds, as spatial scales of convection range from a few kilometres for individual plumes to thousands of kilometres for mesoscale systems, while relevant timescales range from minutes through to seasons.

In order to capture the full range of convective variability, high time-resolution observations are therefore required across a large area. While polar-orbiting satellites are only able to view a static snapshot of clouds, geostationary satellites provide continuous, high time-resolution observations across entire continents. My research uses remote sensing data from the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) instrument aboard the geostationary Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) satellite to observe the lifecycle of individual convective clouds.

The relatively high time-resolution of SEVIRI observations allows them to be combined with cloud tracking software to identify and track individual convective cloud cores. Anvils can be associated with each core by applying an image processing algorithm to SEVIRI brightness temperatures.

The following video shows SEVIRI brightness temperatures (greyscale background), tracked convective cloud cores (solid colours), their associated anvils (transparent colours) and MODIS collection 6 aerosol optical thickness (green-blue overlay) in the Congo Basin on 2 August 2007.

Tracked cores and their associated anvils are used to quantify spatial and temporal variability in various metrics of convective cloud lifecycles including the time and location of convective initiation and dissipation, degree of organization, cloud lifetime and cloud top height.

In 2013-2014 I was a demonstrator for the atmospheric physics laboratory practicals taken by 3rd year physics undergraduates at the University of Oxford. I supported and assessed students completing multi-day experiments on remote sensing of the atmosphere.