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Implications of Limited Liquid Water Path on Static Mixing within Arctic Low-Level Clouds

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology, Stockholm University, and Bert Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm, Sweden
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Abstract

Observations of cloud properties and thermodynamics from two Arctic locations, Barrow, Alaska, and Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic (SHEBA), are examined. A comparison of in-cloud thermodynamic mixing characteristics for low-level, single-layer clouds from nearly a decade of data at Barrow and one full annual cycle over the sea ice at SHEBA is performed. These cloud types occur relatively frequently, evident in 27%–30% of all cloudy cases. To understand the role of liquid water path (LWP), or lack thereof, on static in-cloud mixing, cloud layers are separated into optically thin and optically thick LWP subclasses. Clouds with larger LWPs tend to have a deeper in-cloud mixed layer relative to optically thinner clouds. However, both cloud LWP subclasses are frequently characterized by an in-cloud stable layer above the mixed layer top. The depth of the stable layer generally correlates with an increased temperature gradient across the layer. This layer often contains a specific humidity inversion, but it is more frequently present when cloud LWP is optically thinner (LWP < 50 g m−2). It is suggested that horizontal thermodynamic advection plays a key role modifying the vertical extent of in-cloud mixing and likewise the depth of in-cloud stable layers. Furthermore, longwave atmospheric opacity above the cloud top is generally enhanced during cases with optically thinner clouds. Thermodynamic advection, cloud condensate distribution within the stable layer, and enhanced atmospheric radiation above the cloud are found to introduce a thermodynamic–radiative feedback that potentially modifies the extent of LWP and subsequent in-cloud mixing.

Corresponding author address: Joseph Sedlar, Dept. of Meteorology, Stockholm University, SE-106 91, Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail: josephs@misu.su.se

Abstract

Observations of cloud properties and thermodynamics from two Arctic locations, Barrow, Alaska, and Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic (SHEBA), are examined. A comparison of in-cloud thermodynamic mixing characteristics for low-level, single-layer clouds from nearly a decade of data at Barrow and one full annual cycle over the sea ice at SHEBA is performed. These cloud types occur relatively frequently, evident in 27%–30% of all cloudy cases. To understand the role of liquid water path (LWP), or lack thereof, on static in-cloud mixing, cloud layers are separated into optically thin and optically thick LWP subclasses. Clouds with larger LWPs tend to have a deeper in-cloud mixed layer relative to optically thinner clouds. However, both cloud LWP subclasses are frequently characterized by an in-cloud stable layer above the mixed layer top. The depth of the stable layer generally correlates with an increased temperature gradient across the layer. This layer often contains a specific humidity inversion, but it is more frequently present when cloud LWP is optically thinner (LWP < 50 g m−2). It is suggested that horizontal thermodynamic advection plays a key role modifying the vertical extent of in-cloud mixing and likewise the depth of in-cloud stable layers. Furthermore, longwave atmospheric opacity above the cloud top is generally enhanced during cases with optically thinner clouds. Thermodynamic advection, cloud condensate distribution within the stable layer, and enhanced atmospheric radiation above the cloud are found to introduce a thermodynamic–radiative feedback that potentially modifies the extent of LWP and subsequent in-cloud mixing.

Corresponding author address: Joseph Sedlar, Dept. of Meteorology, Stockholm University, SE-106 91, Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail: josephs@misu.su.se
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