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Autumnal Mixed-Phase Cloudy Boundary Layers in the Arctic

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  • 1 Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

Two mixed-phase cloudy boundary layer events observed over the Arctic ice pack in autumn are extensively analyzed. The local dynamic and thermodynamic structure of the boundary layers is determined from aircraft measurements including analysis of turbulence, longwave radiative transfer, and cloud microphysics. The large-scale forcing is determined from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction reanalysis fields while mesoscale forcing is estimated from 40-km aircraft box patterns. The two cases differed somewhat in their local static stability, surface characteristics, and large-scale forcing. One case was characterized by a stably stratified cloudy boundary layer over a heterogeneous surface containing numerous open leads. The other case occurred over a fairly homogenous surface of multiyear ice and consisted of a surface-based stable layer surmounted by a low-level jet and a cloud-topped mixed layer. An important large-scale factor in the development of low clouds appears to have been water vapor advection. Low clouds formed irrespective of the sign of the large-scale vertical velocity. Observed flux profiles indicate that both cloudy boundary layers are cooled through turbulent eddies except at cloud top where entrainment of warm moist air aloft occurs. Maximum turbulent kinetic energy occurs near cloud top where turbulent motions are driven by strong radiative cooling (>−70 K day−1) and in the vicinity of the low-level jet where turbulence is shear induced. The presence of both liquid and ice in the cloud layers appears to be a nearly steady-state feature at temperatures between −13° and −20°C. Results of a simple condensed water budget indicate that these colloidally unstable mixed-phase clouds may be maintained through strong cloud-top radiative cooling. The isobaric cooling rate required to maintain the presence of both liquid and ice in a stratiform cloud is quite sensitive to variations in the highly uncertain concentration of ice-forming nuclei.

Corresponding author address: Dr. James O. Pinto, PAOS, University of Colorado, Box 0429, Boulder, CO 80309-0429.

Email: pinto@monsoon.colorado.edu

Abstract

Two mixed-phase cloudy boundary layer events observed over the Arctic ice pack in autumn are extensively analyzed. The local dynamic and thermodynamic structure of the boundary layers is determined from aircraft measurements including analysis of turbulence, longwave radiative transfer, and cloud microphysics. The large-scale forcing is determined from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction reanalysis fields while mesoscale forcing is estimated from 40-km aircraft box patterns. The two cases differed somewhat in their local static stability, surface characteristics, and large-scale forcing. One case was characterized by a stably stratified cloudy boundary layer over a heterogeneous surface containing numerous open leads. The other case occurred over a fairly homogenous surface of multiyear ice and consisted of a surface-based stable layer surmounted by a low-level jet and a cloud-topped mixed layer. An important large-scale factor in the development of low clouds appears to have been water vapor advection. Low clouds formed irrespective of the sign of the large-scale vertical velocity. Observed flux profiles indicate that both cloudy boundary layers are cooled through turbulent eddies except at cloud top where entrainment of warm moist air aloft occurs. Maximum turbulent kinetic energy occurs near cloud top where turbulent motions are driven by strong radiative cooling (>−70 K day−1) and in the vicinity of the low-level jet where turbulence is shear induced. The presence of both liquid and ice in the cloud layers appears to be a nearly steady-state feature at temperatures between −13° and −20°C. Results of a simple condensed water budget indicate that these colloidally unstable mixed-phase clouds may be maintained through strong cloud-top radiative cooling. The isobaric cooling rate required to maintain the presence of both liquid and ice in a stratiform cloud is quite sensitive to variations in the highly uncertain concentration of ice-forming nuclei.

Corresponding author address: Dr. James O. Pinto, PAOS, University of Colorado, Box 0429, Boulder, CO 80309-0429.

Email: pinto@monsoon.colorado.edu

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