Quantitative measures of immersion in cloud and the biogeography of cloud forests

R. O. Lawton, U. S. Nair, D. Ray, A. Regmi, J. A. Pounds, R. M. Welch

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


Sites described as tropical montane cloud forests differ greatly, in part because observers tend to differ in their opinion as to what constitutes “frequent and prolonged” immersion in cloud. This definitional difficulty interferes with hydrological analyses, assessments of environmental impacts on ecosystems, and biogeographical analyses of cloud forest communities and species. Quantitative measurements of cloud immersion can be obtained on site, but the observations are necessarily spatially limited, although well-placed observers can examine 10–50 km of a mountain range under rainless conditions. Regional analyses, however, require observations at a broader scale. This chapter discusses remote sensing and modeling approaches that can provide quantitative measures of the spatio-temporal patterns of cloud cover and cloud immersion in tropical mountain ranges. These approaches integrate remote sensing tools of various spatial resolutions and frequencies of observation, digital elevation models, regional atmospheric models, and ground-based observations to provide measures of cloud cover, cloud base height, and the intersection of cloud and terrain. This combined approach was applied to the Monteverde region of northern Costa Rica to illustrate how the proportion of time the forest is immersed in cloud may vary spatially and temporally. The observed spatial variation was largely due to patterns of airflow over the mountains. The temporal variation reflected the diurnal rise and fall of the orographic cloud base, which was influenced in turn by synoptic weather conditions, the seasonal movement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone and the north-easterly trade winds. […]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTropical Montane Cloud Forests
Subtitle of host publicationScience for Conservation and Management
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780511778384
ISBN (Print)9780521760355
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011


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