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Andrew S. Ackerman, Margreet C. vanZanten, Bjorn Stevens, Verica Savic-Jovcic, Christopher S. Bretherton, Andreas Chlond, Jean-Christophe Golaz, Hongli Jiang, Marat Khairoutdinov, Steven K. Krueger, David C. Lewellen, Adrian Lock, Chin-Hoh Moeng, Kozo Nakamura, Markus D. Petters, Jefferson R. Snider, Sonja Weinbrecht, and Mike Zulauf

Abstract

Cloud water sedimentation and drizzle in a stratocumulus-topped boundary layer are the focus of an intercomparison of large-eddy simulations. The context is an idealized case study of nocturnal stratocumulus under a dry inversion, with embedded pockets of heavily drizzling open cellular convection. Results from 11 groups are used. Two models resolve the size distributions of cloud particles, and the others parameterize cloud water sedimentation and drizzle. For the ensemble of simulations with drizzle and cloud water sedimentation, the mean liquid water path (LWP) is remarkably steady and consistent with the measurements, the mean entrainment rate is at the low end of the measured range, and the ensemble-average maximum vertical wind variance is roughly half that measured. On average, precipitation at the surface and at cloud base is smaller, and the rate of precipitation evaporation greater, than measured. Including drizzle in the simulations reduces convective intensity, increases boundary layer stratification, and decreases LWP for nearly all models. Including cloud water sedimentation substantially decreases entrainment, decreases convective intensity, and increases LWP for most models. In nearly all cases, LWP responds more strongly to cloud water sedimentation than to drizzle. The omission of cloud water sedimentation in simulations is strongly discouraged, regardless of whether or not precipitation is present below cloud base.

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Bjorn Stevens, Chin-Hoh Moeng, Andrew S. Ackerman, Christopher S. Bretherton, Andreas Chlond, Stephan de Roode, James Edwards, Jean-Christophe Golaz, Hongli Jiang, Marat Khairoutdinov, Michael P. Kirkpatrick, David C. Lewellen, Adrian Lock, Frank Müller, David E. Stevens, Eoin Whelan, and Ping Zhu

Abstract

Data from the first research flight (RF01) of the second Dynamics and Chemistry of Marine Stratocumulus (DYCOMS-II) field study are used to evaluate the fidelity with which large-eddy simulations (LESs) can represent the turbulent structure of stratocumulus-topped boundary layers. The initial data and forcings for this case placed it in an interesting part of parameter space, near the boundary where cloud-top mixing is thought to render the cloud layer unstable on the one hand, or tending toward a decoupled structure on the other hand. The basis of this evaluation consists of sixteen 4-h simulations from 10 modeling centers over grids whose vertical spacing was 5 m at the cloud-top interface and whose horizontal spacing was 35 m. Extensive sensitivity studies of both the configuration of the case and the numerical setup also enhanced the analysis. Overall it was found that (i) if efforts are made to reduce spurious mixing at cloud top, either by refining the vertical grid or limiting the effects of the subgrid model in this region, then the observed turbulent and thermodynamic structure of the layer can be reproduced with some fidelity; (ii) the base, or native configuration of most simulations greatly overestimated mixing at cloud top, tending toward a decoupled layer in which cloud liquid water path and turbulent intensities were grossly underestimated; (iii) the sensitivity of the simulations to the representation of mixing at cloud top is, to a certain extent, amplified by particulars of this case. Overall the results suggest that the use of LESs to map out the behavior of the stratocumulus-topped boundary layer in this interesting region of parameter space requires a more compelling representation of processes at cloud top. In the absence of significant leaps in the understanding of subgrid-scale (SGS) physics, such a representation can only be achieved by a significant refinement in resolution—a refinement that, while conceivable given existing resources, is probably still beyond the reach of most centers.

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