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S. P. de Szoeke and C. S. Bretherton

Abstract

Using a large eddy simulation (LES), the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) is numerically modeled along 95°W from 8°S to 4°N during boreal autumn, and compared to observations from the East Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes in the Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere System (EPIC) 2001. Since the local ABL winds are predominantly southerly in this season, a “quasi-Lagrangian” forcing is used in which the ABL air column is forced as if it were advecting northward with the mean September–October 2001 meridional wind across the equatorial cold tongue and the rapidly warming SSTs to the north. Pressure gradients and large-scale zonal advective tendencies are prescribed as a function of latitude. Where possible, observations from the EPIC 2001 experiment are used for forcing and for comparison with model results.

The ABL's modeled vertical structure accords with the conceptual model of Wallace et al. and agrees well with observations. Surface stability accounts for the minimum in surface wind over the equatorial cold tongue and the maximum over the warm water to the north. Stability of the lower ABL over the cold tongue allows a jet to accelerate at about 500-m height, relatively uncoupled to the frictional surface layer. Vertical mixing over the warm water to the north distributes this momentum to the surface.

Additional simulations were performed to explore the modeled ABL's sensitivity to pressure gradients, zonal advection, free-tropospheric humidity, and initial conditions. The model ABL was robust: changing the forcings resulted in little change in the modeled structure. The strongest sensitivity was of stratocumulus clouds over the cold tongue to cloud-top radiative cooling. Once formed at the southern edge of the cold tongue, modeled stratocumulus clouds demonstrate a remarkable ability to maintain themselves over the cold tongue in the absence of surface fluxes by radiative cooling at their tops. The persistence of thin stratocumulus clouds in this Lagrangian model suggests that horizontal advection of condensate might be an important process in determining cloudiness over the cold tongue.

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Christopher S. Bretherton and Matthew C. Wyant

Abstract

Decoupling during the “Lagrangian” evolution of a cloud-topped boundary layer advected equatorward by the trade winds in an idealized eastern subtropical ocean is studied using a mixed-layer model (MLM). The sea surface temperature is gradually warmed while the free tropospheric sounding remains unchanged, causing the boundary layer to deepen, the surface relative humidity to decrease, and surface latent heat fluxes to increase. Diurnally averaged insolation is used.

For entrainment closures in which entrainment rate is related to a large-eddy convective velocity scale w*, the MLM predicts an increasingly prominent layer of negative buoyancy fluxes below cloud base as the sea surface temperature warms. Decoupling of the mixed layer can be inferred when the MLM-predicted negative buoyancy fluxes become too large for the internal circulations to sustain. The authors show that decoupling is mainly driven by an increasing ratio of the surface latent heat flux to the net radiative cooling in the cloud, and derive a decoupling criterion based on this ratio. Other effects such as drizzle, the vertical distribution of radiative cooling in the cloud, and sensible heat fluxes, also affect decoupling but are shown to be less important in typical subtropical boundary layers. A comparison of MLM results with a companion numerical study with a cloud-resolving model shows that the decoupling process is similar and the same decoupling criterion applies. A regional analysis of decoupling using Lagrangian trajectories based on summertime northeast Pacific climatology predicts decoupling throughout the subtropical stratocumulus region except in coastal zones where the boundary layer is under 750 m deep.

A “flux-partitioning” entrainment closure, in which the entrainment rate is chosen to maintain a specified ratio of some measure of negative subcloud buoyancy fluxes to positive buoyancy fluxes within the cloud and near the surface, was also considered. By construction, such an MLM never predicts its own breakdown by decoupling. The changed entrainment closure had only a minor influence on the boundary layer evolution and entrainment rate. Instead, the crucial impact of the entrainment closure is on predicting when and where the mixed-layer assumption will break down due to decoupling.

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Matthew C. Wyant, Christopher S. Bretherton, Hugh A. Rand, and David E. Stevens

Abstract

A two-dimensional eddy-resolving model is used to study the transition from the stratocumulus topped boundary layer to the trade cumulus boundary layer. The 10-day simulations use an idealized Lagrangian trajectory representative of summertime climatological conditions in the subtropical northeastern Pacific. The sea surface temperature is increased steadily at 1.5 K day−1, reflecting the southwestward advection of the subtropical marine boundary layer by the trade winds, while the free tropospheric temperature remains unchanged. Results from simulations with both a fixed diurnally averaged shortwave radiative forcing and a diurnally varying shortwave forcing are presented.

A two-stage model for the boundary layer evolution consistent with these simulations is proposed. In the first stage, decoupling is induced by increased latent heat fluxes in the deepening boundary layer. After decoupling, cloud cover remains high, but the cloudiness regime changes from a single stratocumulus layer to sporadic cumulus that detrain into stratocumulus clouds. In the second stage, farther SST increase causes the cumuli to become deeper and more vigorous, penetrating farther into the inversion and entraining more and more dry above-inversion air. This evaporates liquid water in cumulus updrafts before they detrain, causing the eventual dissipation of the overlying stratocumulus. Diurnal variations of insolation lead to a large daytime reduction in stratocumulus cloud amount, but they have little impact on the systematic evolution of boundary layer structure and cloud. The simulated cloudiness changes are not consistent with existing criteria for cloud-top entrainment instability.

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C. R. Mechoso, R. Wood, R. Weller, C. S. Bretherton, A. D. Clarke, H. Coe, C. Fairall, J. T. Farrar, G. Feingold, R. Garreaud, C. Grados, J. McWilliams, S. P. de Szoeke, S. E. Yuter, and P. Zuidema

The present paper describes the Variability of the American Monsoon Systems (VAMOS) Ocean–Cloud–Atmosphere–Land Study (VOCALS), an international research program focused on the improved understanding and modeling of the southeastern Pacific (SEP) climate system on diurnal to interannual time scales. In the framework of the SEP climate, VOCALS has two fundamental objectives: 1) improved simulations by coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation models (CGCMs), with an emphasis on reducing systematic errors in the region; and 2) improved estimates of the indirect effects of aerosols on low clouds and climate, with an emphasis on the more precise quantification of those effects. VOCALS major scientific activities are outlined, and selected achievements are highlighted. Activities described include monitoring in the region, a large international field campaign (the VOCALS Regional Experiment), and two model assessments. The program has already produced significant advances in the understanding of major issues in the SEP: the coastal circulation and the diurnal cycle, the ocean heat budget, factors controlling precipitation and formation of pockets of open cells in stratocumulus decks, aerosol impacts on clouds, and estimation of the first aerosol indirect effect. The paper concludes with a brief presentation on VOCALS contributions to community capacity building before a summary of scientific findings and remaining questions.

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Bjorn Stevens, Gabor Vali, Kimberly Comstock, Robert Wood, Margreet C. van Zanten, Philip H. Austin, Christopher S. Bretherton, and Donald H. Lenschow

Data from recent field studies in the northeast and southeast Pacific are used to investigate pockets of open cells (POCs) that are embedded in otherwise uniform stratocumulus. The cellular structure within a POC resembles broader regions of open cellular convection typically found further offshore. In both regions, cells are composed of precipitating cell walls and cell interiors with depleted cloud water and even clearing. POCs are long lived and embedded in broader regions of stratocumulus where average droplet sizes are relatively large. In contrast, stratiform, or unbroken, cloud formations tend to be accompanied by less, or no, drizzle, suggesting that precipitation is necessary for the sustenance of the open cellular structure. Because, by definition, open cells are associated with a reduction in cloud cover these observations provide direct evidence of a connection between cloudiness and precipitation—a linchpin of hypotheses that posit a connection between changes in the atmospheric aerosol and climate.

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J. Teixeira, B. Stevens, C. S. Bretherton, R. Cederwall, J. D. Doyle, J. C . Golaz, A. A. M. Holtslag, S. A . Klein, J. K. Lundquist, D. A. Randall, A. P. Siebesma, and P. M. M. Soares
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C.-H. Moeng, W. R. Cotton, C. Bretherton, A. Chlond, M. Khairoutdinov, S. Krueger, W. S. Lewellen, M. K. MacVean, J. R. M. Pasquier, H. A. Rand, A. P. Siebesma, B. Stevens, and R. I. Sykes

This paper reports an intercomparison study of a stratocumulus-topped planetary boundary layer (PBL) generated from ten 3D large eddy simulation (LES) codes and four 2D cloud-resolving models (CRMs). These models vary in the numerics, the parameterizations of the subgrid-scale (SGS) turbulence and condensation processes, and the calculation of longwave radiative cooling. Cloud-top radiative cooling is often the major source of buoyant production of turbulent kinetic energy in the stratocumulus-topped PBL. An idealized nocturnal stratocumulus case was selected for this study. It featured a statistically horizontally homogeneous and nearly solid cloud deck with no drizzle, no solar radiation, little wind shear, and little surface heating.

Results of the two-hour simulations showed that the overall cloud structure, including cloud-top height, cloud fraction, and the vertical distributions of many turbulence statistics, compared well among all LESs despite the code variations. However, the entrainment rate was found to differ significantly among the simulations. Among the model uncertainties due to numerics, SGS turbulence, SGS condensation, and radiation, none could be identified to explain such differences. Therefore, a follow-up study will focus on simulating the entrainment process. The liquid water mixing ratio profiles also varied significantly among the simulations; these profiles are sensitive to the algorithm used for computing the saturation mixing ratio.

Despite the obvious differences in eddy structure in two- and three-dimensional simulations, the cloud structure predicted by the 2D CRMs was similar to that obtained by the 3D LESs, even though the momentum fluxes, the vertical and horizontal velocity variances, and the turbulence kinetic energy profiles predicted by the 2D CRMs all differ significantly from those of the LESs.

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J. A. Coakley Jr., P. A. Durkee, K. Nielsen, J. P. Taylor, S. Platnick, B. A. Albrecht, D. Babb, F.-L. Chang, W. R. Tahnk, C. S. Bretherton, and P. V. Hobbs

Abstract

The 1-km advanced very high resolution radiometer observations from the morning, NOAA-12, and afternoon, NOAA-11, satellite passes over the coast of California during June 1994 are used to determine the altitudes, visible optical depths, and cloud droplet effective radii for low-level clouds. Comparisons are made between the properties of clouds within 50 km of ship tracks and those farther than 200 km from the tracks in order to deduce the conditions that are conducive to the appearance of ship tracks in satellite images. The results indicate that the low-level clouds must be sufficiently close to the surface for ship tracks to form. Ship tracks rarely appear in low-level clouds having altitudes greater than 1 km. The distributions of visible optical depths and cloud droplet effective radii for ambient clouds in which ship tracks are embedded are the same as those for clouds without ship tracks. Cloud droplet sizes and liquid water paths for low-level clouds do not constrain the appearance of ship tracks in the imagery. The sensitivity of ship tracks to cloud altitude appears to explain why the majority of ship tracks observed from satellites off the coast of California are found south of 35°N. A small rise in the height of low-level clouds appears to explain why numerous ship tracks appeared on one day in a particular region but disappeared on the next, even though the altitudes of the low-level clouds were generally less than 1 km and the cloud cover was the same for both days. In addition, ship tracks are frequent when low-level clouds at altitudes below 1 km are extensive and completely cover large areas. The frequency of imagery pixels overcast by clouds with altitudes below 1 km is greater in the morning than in the afternoon and explains why more ship tracks are observed in the morning than in the afternoon. If the occurrence of ship tracks in satellite imagery data depends on the coupling of the clouds to the underlying boundary layer, then cloud-top altitude and the area of complete cloud cover by low-level clouds may be useful indices for this coupling.

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P. A. Durkee, K. J. Noone, R. J. Ferek, D. W. Johnson, J. P. Taylor, T. J. Garrett, P. V. Hobbs, J. G. Hudson, C. S. Bretherton, G. Innis, G. M. Frick, W. A. Hoppel, C. D. O’Dowd, L. M. Russell, R. Gasparovic, K. E. Nielsen, S. A. Tessmer, E. Öström, S. R. Osborne, R. C. Flagan, J. H. Seinfeld, and H. Rand

Abstract

Anomalously high reflectivity tracks in stratus and stratocumulus sheets associated with ships (known as ship tracks) are commonly seen in visible and near-infrared satellite imagery. Until now there have been only a limited number of in situ measurements made in ship tracks. The Monterey Area Ship Track (MAST) experiment, which was conducted off the coast of California in June 1994, provided a substantial dataset on ship emissions and their effects on boundary layer clouds. Several platforms, including the University of Washington C-131A aircraft, the Meteorological Research Flight C-130 aircraft, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ER-2 aircraft, the Naval Research Laboratory airship, the Research Vessel Glorita, and dedicated U.S. Navy ships, participated in MAST in order to study processes governing the formation and maintenance of ship tracks.

This paper tests the hypotheses that the cloud microphysical changes that produce ship tracks are due to (a) particulate emission from the ship’s stack and/or (b) sea-salt particles from the ship’s wake. It was found that ships powered by diesel propulsion units that emitted high concentrations of aerosols in the accumulation mode produced ship tracks. Ships that produced few particles (such as nuclear ships), or ships that produced high concentrations of particles but at sizes too small to be activated as cloud drops in typical stratocumulus (such as gas turbine and some steam-powered ships), did not produce ship tracks. Statistics and case studies, combined with model simulations, show that provided a cloud layer is susceptible to an aerosol perturbation, and the atmospheric stability enables aerosol to be mixed throughout the boundary layer, the direct emissions of cloud condensation nuclei from the stack of a diesel-powered ship is the most likely, if not the only, cause of the formation of ship tracks. There was no evidence that salt particles from ship wakes cause ship tracks.

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Bjorn Stevens, Donald H. Lenschow, Gabor Vali, Hermann Gerber, A. Bandy, B. Blomquist, J. -L. Brenguier, C. S. Bretherton, F. Burnet, T. Campos, S. Chai, I. Faloona, D. Friesen, S. Haimov, K. Laursen, D. K. Lilly, S. M. Loehrer, Szymon P. Malinowski, B. Morley, M. D. Petters, D. C. Rogers, L. Russell, V. Savic-Jovcic, J. R. Snider, D. Straub, Marcin J. Szumowski, H. Takagi, D. C. Thornton, M. Tschudi, C. Twohy, M. Wetzel, and M. C. van Zanten

The second Dynamics and Chemistry of Marine Stratocumulus (DYCOMS-II) field study is described. The field program consisted of nine flights in marine stratocumulus west-southwest of San Diego, California. The objective of the program was to better understand the physics a n d dynamics of marine stratocumulus. Toward this end special flight strategies, including predominantly nocturnal flights, were employed to optimize estimates of entrainment velocities at cloud-top, large-scale divergence within the boundary layer, drizzle processes in the cloud, cloud microstructure, and aerosol–cloud interactions. Cloud conditions during DYCOMS-II were excellent with almost every flight having uniformly overcast clouds topping a well-mixed boundary layer. Although the emphasis of the manuscript is on the goals and methodologies of DYCOMS-II, some preliminary findings are also presented—the most significant being that the cloud layers appear to entrain less and drizzle more than previous theoretical work led investigators to expect.

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