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Ian B. Glenn, Graham Feingold, Jake J. Gristey, and Takanobu Yamaguchi

Abstract

The indirect radiative effect of aerosol variability on shallow cumulus clouds is realized in nature with considerable concurrent meteorological variability. Large-eddy simulations constrained by observations at a continental site in Oklahoma are performed to represent the variability of different meteorological states on days with different aerosol conditions. The total radiative effect of this natural covariation between aerosol and other meteorological drivers of total cloud amount and albedo is quantified. The changes to these bulk quantities are used to understand the response of the cloud radiative effect to aerosol–cloud interactions (ACI) in the context of concurrent processes, as opposed to attempting to untangle the effect of individual processes on a case-by-case basis. Mutual information (MI) analysis suggests that meteorological variability masks the strength of the relationship between cloud drop number concentration and the cloud radiative effect. This is shown to be mostly due to variation in solar zenith angle and cloud field horizontal heterogeneity masking the relationship between cloud drop number and cloud albedo. By combining MI and more traditional differential analyses, a framework to identify important modes of covariation between aerosol, clouds, and meteorological conditions is developed. This shows that accounting for solar zenith angle variation and implementing an albedo bias correction increases the detectability of the radiative effects of ACI in simulations of shallow cumulus.

Open access
Wayne M. Angevine, Joseph Olson, Jake J. Gristey, Ian Glenn, Graham Feingold, and David D. Turner

Abstract

Proper behavior of physics parameterizations in numerical models at grid sizes of order 1 km is a topic of current research. Modifications to parameterization schemes to accommodate varying grid sizes are termed “scale aware.” The general problem of grids on which a physical process is partially resolved is called the “gray zone” or “terra incognita.” Here we examine features of the Mellor–Yamada–Nakanishi–Niino (MYNN) boundary layer scheme with eddy diffusivity and mass flux (EDMF) that were intended to provide scale awareness, as implemented in WRF, version 4.1. Scale awareness is provided by reducing the intensity of nonlocal components of the vertical mixing in the scheme as the grid size decreases. However, we find that the scale-aware features cause poorer performance in our tests on a 600-m grid. The resolved circulations on the 600-m grid have different temporal and spatial scales than are found in large-eddy simulations of the same cases, for reasons that are well understood theoretically and are described in the literature. The circulations [model convectively induced secondary circulations (M-CISCs)] depend on the grid size and on details of the model numerics. We conclude that scale awareness should be based on effective resolution, and not on grid size, and that the gray-zone problem for boundary layer turbulence and shallow cumulus cannot be solved simply by reducing the intensity of the parameterization. Parameterizations with different characteristics may lead to different conclusions.

Free access
Jake J. Gristey, Graham Feingold, Ian B. Glenn, K. Sebastian Schmidt, and Hong Chen

Abstract

This study examines shallow cumulus cloud fields and their surface shortwave radiative effects using large-eddy simulation (LES) along with observations across multiple days at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Southern Great Plains atmospheric observatory. Pronounced differences are found between probability density functions (PDFs) of downwelling surface solar irradiance derived from observations and LES one-dimensional (1D) online radiation calculations. The shape of the observed PDF is bimodal, which is only reproduced by offline three-dimensional (3D) radiative transfer calculations, demonstrating PDF bimodality as a 3D radiative signature of continental shallow cumuli. Local differences between 3D and 1D radiative transfer calculations of downwelling surface solar irradiance are, on average, larger than 150 W m−2 on one afternoon. The differences are substantially reduced when spatially averaged over the LES domain and temporally averaged over the diurnal cycle, but systematic 3D biases ranging from 2 to 8 W m−2 persist across different days. Covariations between the domain-averaged surface irradiance, framed as a surface cloud radiative effect, and the simulated cloud fraction are found to follow a consistent diurnal relationship, often exhibiting hysteresis. In contrast, observations show highly variable behavior. By subsampling the LES domain, it is shown that this is due to the limited sampling density of inherently 3D observations. These findings help to define observational requirements for detecting such relationships, provide valuable insight for evaluating weather and climate models against surface observations as they push to ever higher resolutions, and have important implications for future assessments of solar renewable energy potential.

Open access
Jake J. Gristey, J. Christine Chiu, Robert J. Gurney, Keith P. Shine, Stephan Havemann, Jean-Claude Thelen, and Peter G. Hill

Abstract

The spectrum of reflected solar radiation emerging at the top of the atmosphere is rich with Earth system information. To identify spectral signatures in the reflected solar radiation and directly relate them to the underlying physical properties controlling their structure, over 90 000 solar reflectance spectra are computed over West Africa in 2010 using a fast radiation code employing the spectral characteristics of the Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography (SCIAMACHY). Cluster analysis applied to the computed spectra reveals spectral signatures related to distinct surface properties, and cloud regimes distinguished by their spectral shortwave cloud radiative effect (SWCRE). The cloud regimes exhibit a diverse variety of mean broadband SWCREs, and offer an alternative approach to define cloud type for SWCRE applications that does not require any prior assumptions. The direct link between spectral signatures and distinct physical properties extracted from clustering remains robust between spatial scales of 1, 20, and 240 km, and presents an excellent opportunity to understand the underlying properties controlling real spectral reflectance observations. Observed SCIAMACHY spectra are assigned to the calculated spectral clusters, showing that cloud regimes are most frequent during the active West African monsoon season of June–October in 2010, and all cloud regimes have a higher frequency of occurrence during the active monsoon season of 2003 compared with the inactive monsoon season of 2004. Overall, the distinct underlying physical properties controlling spectral signatures show great promise for monitoring evolution of the Earth system directly from solar spectral reflectance observations.

Open access
Laura D. Riihimaki, Connor Flynn, Allison McComiskey, Dan Lubin, Yann Blanchard, J. Christine Chiu, Graham Feingold, Daniel R. Feldman, Jake J. Gristey, Christian Herrera, Gary Hodges, Evgueni Kassianov, Samuel E. LeBlanc, Alexander Marshak, Joseph J. Michalsky, Peter Pilewskie, Sebastian Schmidt, Ryan C. Scott, Yolanda Shea, Kurtis Thome, Richard Wagener, and Bruce Wielicki

Abstract

Industry advances have greatly reduced the cost and size of ground-based shortwave (SW) sensors for the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared spectral ranges that make up the solar spectrum, while simultaneously increasing their ruggedness, reliability, and calibration accuracy needed for outdoor operation. These sensors and collocated meteorological equipment are an important part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) User Facility, which has supported parallel integrated measurements of atmospheric and surface properties for more than two decades at fixed and mobile sites around the world. The versatile capability of these ground-based measurements includes 1) rich spectral information required for retrieving cloud and aerosol microphysical properties, such as cloud phase, cloud particle size, and aerosol size distributions, and 2) high temporal resolution needed for capturing fast evolution of cloud microphysical properties in response to rapid changes in meteorological conditions. Here we describe examples of how ARM’s spectral radiation measurements are being used to improve understanding of the complex processes governing microphysical, optical, and radiative properties of clouds and aerosol.

Full access