In this paper, the diurnal variations of various clouds are analyzed using hourly cloud observations at weather stations in China from 1985 to 2011. In combination with merged hourly precipitation data, the relationship between the diurnal variations of clouds and precipitation in the summers from 2008 to 2011 are studied. The results show that the occurrence frequencies of total cloud and various cloud types exhibit significant diurnal variations. The diurnal variations of the occurrence frequencies of altocumulus and stratocumulus show a bimodal pattern, with peaks appearing in the early morning and late afternoon. The early morning peaks of altocumulus and stratocumulus appear earlier in the summer than in the other seasons, while the late afternoon maxima show an opposite trend. The occurrence frequency of nimbostratus peaks in the morning between 07 and 12 LST (local solar time), and the peak value lags 2 to 3 h from west to east along the Yangtze River valley; meanwhile, the diurnal variation shows no clear differences caused by changes in the latitude or seasons. Cumulus shows an afternoon (14 LST) maximum, while cumulonimbus peaks in the late afternoon during 16–20 LST, and both of them present a great diurnal range. Cirrus usually reaches its peak at 17–18 LST, and it differs by 1 to 2 h with a change in the latitude. The results of the study first show that the diurnal variations of precipitation among different regions are dominated by different clouds. The upper reaches of the Yangtze River valley present a midnight precipitation maximum that is mainly dominated by cumulonimbus. For the middle reaches of the Yangtze River valley impacted by nimbostratus, the precipitation peaks in the early morning. In South and Northeast China, the precipitation peaks in the afternoon and is determined by the diurnal variations of convective clouds. In the region between the Yangtze River valley and Yellow River valley, the precipitation peaks in the early morning and afternoon; the early morning peak is mainly determined by stratiform clouds, while the afternoon peak is closely related to convective clouds.
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