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Large-Eddy Simulation of Air Parcels in Stratocumulus Clouds: Time Scales and Spatial Variability

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  • 1 Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
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Abstract

Large ensembles of air parcel trajectories driven by the (large-eddy simulation) LES-generated velocity fields from simulations of stratocumulus clouds were analyzed, focusing on statistics of air parcel in-cloud time scales, as well as their spatial variability. In the case of a drizzling stratocumulus cloud the in-cloud residence time is 2–5 times longer than the characteristic cloud eddy turnover time. About 70% of all air parcels cycle in the cloud more than 2 times and about 50% more than 3 times, thus indicating that air cycling is an essential feature of drizzling stratocumulus cloud dynamics. The extent of cycling is different in the case of nondrizzling stratocumulus cloud, where mean in-cloud time scales are on the order of eddy turnover time. Evidently air cycling in cloud depends on boundary layer stability and flow circulation; the latter is affected by cooling of evaporating drizzle and heating by solar radiation.

Results show significant inhomogeneity of in-cloud time scales, which leads to inhomogeneity in cloud microphysical parameters. The potential effects of in-cloud residence time spatial inhomogeneity on cloud microstructure are obvious and significant. Older parcels will contain larger droplets and previously processed cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). Nonadiabatic mixing between old and new parcels provides new embryos for coagulation and accelerates drizzle formation. It is hypothesized that mixing of parcels with different histories, that is, with drop size distributions at different stages of their evolution, may contribute to the drop spectrum broadening. The results also suggest a possible positive feedback mechanism between drizzle and decoupling, namely, parcels with long time trajectories will favor enhanced drizzle growth, which, in turn, will lead to stronger evaporation below cloud base followed by a stronger increase in stability of the subcloud layer and stronger decoupling; all resulting in more air parcel cycling in cloud and more drizzle, which may eventually lead to stratocumulus cloud breakup.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Yefim L. Kogan, Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, University of Oklahoma, 100 E. Boyd, Energy Center, Room 1110, Norman, OK 73019. Email: ykogan@ou.edu

Abstract

Large ensembles of air parcel trajectories driven by the (large-eddy simulation) LES-generated velocity fields from simulations of stratocumulus clouds were analyzed, focusing on statistics of air parcel in-cloud time scales, as well as their spatial variability. In the case of a drizzling stratocumulus cloud the in-cloud residence time is 2–5 times longer than the characteristic cloud eddy turnover time. About 70% of all air parcels cycle in the cloud more than 2 times and about 50% more than 3 times, thus indicating that air cycling is an essential feature of drizzling stratocumulus cloud dynamics. The extent of cycling is different in the case of nondrizzling stratocumulus cloud, where mean in-cloud time scales are on the order of eddy turnover time. Evidently air cycling in cloud depends on boundary layer stability and flow circulation; the latter is affected by cooling of evaporating drizzle and heating by solar radiation.

Results show significant inhomogeneity of in-cloud time scales, which leads to inhomogeneity in cloud microphysical parameters. The potential effects of in-cloud residence time spatial inhomogeneity on cloud microstructure are obvious and significant. Older parcels will contain larger droplets and previously processed cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). Nonadiabatic mixing between old and new parcels provides new embryos for coagulation and accelerates drizzle formation. It is hypothesized that mixing of parcels with different histories, that is, with drop size distributions at different stages of their evolution, may contribute to the drop spectrum broadening. The results also suggest a possible positive feedback mechanism between drizzle and decoupling, namely, parcels with long time trajectories will favor enhanced drizzle growth, which, in turn, will lead to stronger evaporation below cloud base followed by a stronger increase in stability of the subcloud layer and stronger decoupling; all resulting in more air parcel cycling in cloud and more drizzle, which may eventually lead to stratocumulus cloud breakup.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Yefim L. Kogan, Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, University of Oklahoma, 100 E. Boyd, Energy Center, Room 1110, Norman, OK 73019. Email: ykogan@ou.edu

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