Large-Eddy Simulation of Moist Convection during a Cold Air Outbreak over the Gulf Stream

Eric D. Skyllingstad College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

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James B. Edson Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, Groton, Connecticut

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Abstract

Cold air outflow over the Gulf Stream is modeled using a cloud-resolving large-eddy simulation model with three classes of precipitation. Simulations are conducted in a quasi-Lagrangian framework using an idealized sounding and uniform geostrophic winds based on observations taken on 20 February 2007 as part of the World Climate Research Program Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) Mode Water Dynamics Experiment (CLIMODE) project. Two cases are considered, one with an increasing sea surface temperature (SST) representing the crossing of the Gulf Stream front, and a second case with constant SST.

Cloud systems develop in the model with strong convective plumes that spread into regions of stratus clouds at the top of the boundary layer. Simulated boundary layer growth is forced by a combination of evaporative cooling at the cloud top, upward radiative flux, and mechanical entrainment of the overlying warmer and drier air. Constant growth of the boundary layer acts to maintain a near-constant water vapor level in the boundary layer, promoting high latent and sensible heat fluxes. Frictional surface drag is distributed throughout the boundary layer by convection, causing increased shear at the cloud top, qualitatively agreeing with observed sounding profiles. Overall, the frontal case develops stronger precipitation and turbulence in comparison with the constant SST case. A near-uniform stratocumulus layer and stronger radiative cooling are produced in the constant SST case, whereas the frontal case generates open cumuliform clouds with reduced cloud coverage. Cloud evolution in the frontal case is similar to the transition from stratocumulus to shallow cumulus observed in the subtropics, as cumuliform clouds enhance cloud-top entrainment and evaporation of stratus clouds.

Corresponding author address: Eric Skyllingstad, COAS, 104 COAS Admin. Bldg., Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331. Email: skylling@coas.oregonstate.edu

Abstract

Cold air outflow over the Gulf Stream is modeled using a cloud-resolving large-eddy simulation model with three classes of precipitation. Simulations are conducted in a quasi-Lagrangian framework using an idealized sounding and uniform geostrophic winds based on observations taken on 20 February 2007 as part of the World Climate Research Program Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) Mode Water Dynamics Experiment (CLIMODE) project. Two cases are considered, one with an increasing sea surface temperature (SST) representing the crossing of the Gulf Stream front, and a second case with constant SST.

Cloud systems develop in the model with strong convective plumes that spread into regions of stratus clouds at the top of the boundary layer. Simulated boundary layer growth is forced by a combination of evaporative cooling at the cloud top, upward radiative flux, and mechanical entrainment of the overlying warmer and drier air. Constant growth of the boundary layer acts to maintain a near-constant water vapor level in the boundary layer, promoting high latent and sensible heat fluxes. Frictional surface drag is distributed throughout the boundary layer by convection, causing increased shear at the cloud top, qualitatively agreeing with observed sounding profiles. Overall, the frontal case develops stronger precipitation and turbulence in comparison with the constant SST case. A near-uniform stratocumulus layer and stronger radiative cooling are produced in the constant SST case, whereas the frontal case generates open cumuliform clouds with reduced cloud coverage. Cloud evolution in the frontal case is similar to the transition from stratocumulus to shallow cumulus observed in the subtropics, as cumuliform clouds enhance cloud-top entrainment and evaporation of stratus clouds.

Corresponding author address: Eric Skyllingstad, COAS, 104 COAS Admin. Bldg., Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331. Email: skylling@coas.oregonstate.edu

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