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Christopher S. Bretherton, Philip Austin, and Steven T. Siems

Abstract

The Analysis of the Atlantic Stratocumulus Transition Experiment (ASTEX) Lagrangians started in Part I is continued, presenting measurements of sea surface temperature, surface latent and sensible heat fluxes from bulk aerodynamic formulas, cloud fraction, and drizzle rate for the two Lagrangians, mainly using data from horizontal legs flown by the Electra and C130. Substantial drizzle, averaging 1 mm day−1 at the surface, was measured during the first Lagrangian. The surface fluxes increased rapidly as the air mass advected over rapidly increasing SST. Cloud fraction remained high throughout. During the second Lagrangian, drizzle formed in the stratocumulus layer but mainly evaporated in the deep, dry cumulus layer and the subcloud layer before reaching the surface. Stratocumulus cloud cover was thickest when moist air lay above the inversion and then it dissipated to leave only cumuli once dry air advected over the inversion.

Three methods are compared for determining entrainment rate (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts analyses of mean vertical motion, calculation of a water budget, and the ozone flux–jump method). While all three methods have significant uncertainties, their predictions are all consistent with an entrainment rate of 0.7 ± 0.3 cm s−1 for the first Lagrangian and 0.6 ± 0.3 cm s−1 for the second Lagrangian. Corresponding estimates of the time-dependent horizontal divergence are also presented.

Estimates of the cumulus mass flux, internal mixing time, and entrainment dilution time for the boundary layers observed during the two Lagrangians are also presented.

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Steven T. Siems, Donald H. Lenschow, and Christopher S. Bretherton

Abstract

The structure and evolution of stratocumulus cloud decks have long been recognized to depend upon a balance of numerous processes including the downward entrainment of the overlying free tropospheric air into the cloud deck. While the cloud is understood to have an impact on the overlying air as it subsides toward the inversion, the nature of the interaction between the stratocumulus and the overlying air has not been studied in detail.

We have developed a simple, one-dimensional model of the air in the lower free troposphere as it subsides to the stratocumulus cloud deck. First, we fixed the mixed layer in order to determine how the thermodynamic structure of the overlying air impacts the cloud. Our model shows that this overlying air can have a large impact on the net longwave flux across the cloud top and thus the longwave cloud-top cooling. The overlying air, which may require days to subside through a couple of kilometers, undergoes cooling at a rate that depends on its vapor content. The total cooling is thus strongly dependent on the large-scale divergence. This cooling is greatest immediately above the cloud top and can substantially change the strength of the inversion and the potential for a buoyancy reversal upon entrainment. We then coupled this model of the overlying air to a mixed-layer model. We find that the temperature at which air is entrained into the cloud, and thus the strength of the inversion, is not a direct function of the altitude of cloud top as is normally modeled. The entrainment rate and the strength of the inversion are found to be in a loose balance. If the entrainment rate is too great, the strength of the inversion increases, which reduces the entrainment rate.

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Anthony E. Morrison, Steven T. Siems, and Michael J. Manton

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Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Level 2 observations from the Terra satellite are used to create a 3-yr climatology of cloud-top phase over a section of the Southern Ocean (south of Australia) and the North Pacific Ocean. The intent is to highlight the extensive presence of supercooled liquid water over the Southern Ocean region, particularly during summer. The phase of such clouds directly affects the absorbed shortwave radiation, which has recently been found to be “poorly simulated in both state-of-the-art reanalysis and coupled global climate models” (Trenberth and Fasullo).

The climatology finds that supercooled liquid water is present year-round in the low-altitude clouds across this section of the Southern Ocean. Further, the MODIS cloud phase algorithm identifies very few glaciated cloud tops at temperatures above −20°C, rather inferring a large portion of “uncertain” cloud tops. Between 50° and 60°S during the summer, the albedo effect is compounded by a seasonal reduction in high-level cirrus. This is in direct contrast to the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. Here MODIS finds a higher likelihood of observing warm liquid water clouds during summer and a reduction in the relative frequency of cloud tops within the 0° to −20°C temperature range.

As the MODIS cloud phase product has limited ability to confidently identify cloud-top phase between −5° and −25°C, future research should include observations from the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) and other space-based sensors to help with the classification within this temperature range. Further, multiregion in situ verification of any remotely sensed observations is vital to further understanding the cloud phase processes.

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Thomas H. Chubb, Steven T. Siems, and Michael J. Manton

Abstract

Data from a precipitation gauge network in the Snowy Mountains of southeastern Australia have been analyzed to produce a new climatology of wintertime precipitation and airmass history for the region in the period 1990–2009. Precipitation amounts on the western slopes and in the high elevations (>1000 m) of the Snowy Mountains region have experienced a decline in precipitation in excess of the general decline in southeastern Australia. The contrast in the decline east and west of the ranges suggests that factors influencing orographic precipitation are of particular importance. A synoptic decomposition of precipitation events has been performed, which demonstrates that about 57% of the wintertime precipitation may be attributed to storms associated with “cutoff lows” (equatorward of 45°S). A further 40% was found to be due to “embedded lows,” with the remainder due to Australian east coast lows and several other sporadically occurring events. The declining trend in wintertime precipitation over the past two decades is most clearly seen in the intensity of precipitation due to cutoff lows and coincides with a decline in the number of systems associated with a cold frontal passage. Airmass history during precipitation events was represented by back trajectories calculated from ECMWF Interim Reanalysis data, and statistics of air parcel position were related to observations of precipitation intensity. This approach gives insight into sources of moisture during wintertime storms, identifying “moisture corridors,” which are typically important for transport of water vapor from remote sources to the Snowy Mountains region. The prevalence of these moisture corridors is associated with the southern annular mode, which corresponds to fluctuations in the strength of the westerly winds in southeastern Australia.

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Donald H. Lenschow, Paul B. Krummel, and Steven T. Siems

Abstract

Three independent techniques for measuring entrainment at the top of the planetary boundary layer (PBL) from an aircraft are discussed: 1) measuring the terms in the budget of a scalar and solving for the entrainment term; 2) estimating the entrainment velocity as the negative of the ratio of a scalar flux at the top of the PBL to the jump in its mean value across the top; and 3) measuring the divergence within closed (circular) flight paths, integrating with height to obtain the mean vertical motion at the PBL top, and estimating the time rate of change of the PBL top to solve for the entrainment velocity. All of these techniques can be implemented using the same flight pattern. The first two techniques have been used with some success previously, but the divergence technique, as far as the authors know, has not been used for entrainment measurements. The closed flight track can also be used to measure vorticity, with somewhat greater accuracy than for divergence, since the vorticity is typically several times larger than the divergence. These techniques were implemented using the National Center for Atmosperic Research C-130 in the Aerosol Characterization Experiment (ACE-1) and the results for the divergence technique are discussed. It is shown that measuring divergence and vorticity with an aircraft is feasible but is at the edge of currently used air motion sensing technology.

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Fahimeh Sarmadi, Yi Huang, Steven T. Siems, and Michael J. Manton

Abstract

The relationship between orographic precipitation, low-level thermodynamic stability, and the synoptic meteorology is explored for the Snowy Mountains of southeast Australia. A 21-yr dataset (May–October, 1995–2015) of upper-air soundings from an upwind site is used to define synoptic indicators and the low-level stability. A K-means clustering algorithm was employed to classify the daily meteorology into four synoptic classes. The initial classification, based only on six synoptic indicators, distinctly defines both the surface precipitation and the low-level stability by class. Consistent with theory, the wet classes are found to have weak low-level stability, and the dry classes have strong low-level stability. By including low-level stability as an additional input variable to the clustering method, statistically significant correlations were found between the precipitation and the low-level stability within each of the four classes. An examination of the joint PDF reveals a highly nonlinear relationship; heavy rain was associated with very weak low-level stability, and conversely, strong low-level stability was associated with very little precipitation. Building on these historical relationships, model output statistics (MOS) from a moderate resolution (12-km spatial resolution) operational forecast were used to develop stepwise regression models designed to improve the 24-h forecast of precipitation over the Snowy Mountains. A single regression model for all days was found to reduce the RMSE by 7% and the bias by 75%. A class-based regression model was found to reduce the overall RMSE by 30% and the bias by 85%.

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Yi Huang, Alain Protat, Steven T. Siems, and Michael J. Manton

Abstract

Cloud and precipitation properties of the midlatitude storm-track regions over the Southern Ocean (SO) and North Atlantic (NA) are explored using reanalysis datasets and A-Train observations from 2007 to 2011. In addition to the high-level retrieval products, lower-level observed variables—CloudSat radar reflectivity and Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) lidar attenuated backscatter—are directly examined using both contoured frequency by altitude diagrams (CFADs) and contoured frequency by temperature diagrams (CFTDs) to provide direct insight into thermodynamic phase properties. While the wintertime temperature profiles are similar over the two regions, the summertime environment is warmer over the NA. The NA atmosphere is generally moister than the SO, while the SO boundary layer is moister during winter. The results herein suggest that although the two regions exhibit many similarities in the prevalence of boundary layer clouds (BLCs) and frontal systems, notable differences exist. The NA environment exhibits stronger seasonality in thermodynamic structure, cloud, and precipitation properties than the SO. The regional differences of cloud properties are dominated by microphysics in winter and thermodynamics in summer. Glaciated clouds with higher reflectivities are found at warmer temperatures over the NA. BLCs (primarily below 1.5 km) are a predominant component over the SO. The wintertime boundary layer is shallower over the SO. Midlevel clouds consisting of smaller hydrometeors in higher concentration (potentially supercooled liquid water) are more frequently observed over the SO. Cirrus clouds are more prevalent over the NA. Notable differences exist in both the frequencies of thermodynamic phases of precipitation and intensity of warm rain over the two regions.

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Anthony E. Morrison, Steven T. Siems, and Michael J. Manton

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A “climatology” of supercooled cloud tops is presented for southeastern Australia and the western United States, where historic glaciogenic cloud-seeding trials have been located. The climatology finds that supercooled cloud tops are common over the mountainous region of southeastern Australia and Tasmania (SEAT). Regions where cloud-seeding trials reported positive results coincide with a higher likelihood of observing supercooled cloud tops. Maximum absolute frequencies (AFs) occur ∼40% of the time during winter. There is a relationship between the underlying orography and the likelihood of observing supercooled liquid water (SLW)-topped clouds. Regions of the United States that have been the subject of cloud-seeding trials show lower AFs of SLW-topped clouds. The maximum is located over the Sierra Nevada and occurs ∼20% of the time during winter (Sierra Cooperative Pilot Project). These sites are on mountains with peaks higher than any found in SEAT (>3000 m). For the Sierra Nevada, the AF of SLW-topped clouds decreases as the elevation increases, with glaciation occurring at the higher elevations. The remote sensing of supercooled cloud tops is not proof of a region’s amenability for glaciogenic cloud seeding. This study simply highlights the significant environmental differences between historical cloud-seeding regions in the United States and Australia, suggesting that it is not reasonable to extrapolate results from one region to another. Without in situ cloud microphysical measurements, in-depth knowledge of the timing and duration of potentially seedable events, or knowledge of the synoptic forcing of such events, it is not possible to categorize a region’s potential for precipitation augmentation operations.

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Yi Huang, Steven T. Siems, Michael J. Manton, and Gregory Thompson

Abstract

The representation of the marine boundary layer (BL) clouds remains a formidable challenge for state-of-the-art simulations. A recent study by Bodas-Salcedo et al. using the Met Office Unified Model highlights that the underprediction of the low/midlevel postfrontal clouds contributes to the largest bias of the surface downwelling shortwave radiation over the Southern Ocean (SO). A-Train observations and limited in situ measurements have been used to evaluate the Weather Research and Forecasting Model, version 3.3.1 (WRFV3.3.1), in simulating the postfrontal clouds over Tasmania and the SO. The simulated cloud macro/microphysical properties are compared against the observations. Experiments are also undertaken to test the sensitivity of model resolution, microphysical (MP) schemes, planetary boundary layer (PBL) schemes, and cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) concentration. The simulations demonstrate a considerable level of skill in representing the clouds during the frontal passages and, to a lesser extent, in the postfrontal environment. The simulations, however, have great difficulties in portraying the widespread marine BL clouds that are not immediately associated with fronts. This shortcoming is persistent to the changes of model configuration and physical parameterization. The representation of large-scale conditions and their connections with the BL clouds are discussed. A lack of BL moisture is the most obvious explanation for the shortcoming, which may be a consequence of either strong entrainment or weak surface fluxes. It is speculated that the BL wind shear/turbulence may be an issue over the SO. More comprehensive observations are necessary to fully investigate the deficiency of the simulations.

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Kathrin Wapler, Todd P. Lane, Peter T. May, Christian Jakob, Michael J. Manton, and Steven T. Siems

Abstract

Nested cloud-system-resolving model simulations of tropical convective clouds observed during the recent Tropical Warm Pool-International Cloud Experiment (TWP-ICE) are conducted using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. The WRF model is configured with a highest-resolving domain that uses 1.3-km grid spacing and is centered over Darwin, Australia. The performance of the model in simulating two different convective regimes observed during TWP-ICE is considered. The first regime is characteristic of the active monsoon, which features widespread cloud cover that is similar to maritime convection. The second regime is a monsoon break, which contains intense localized systems that are representative of diurnally forced continental convection. Many aspects of the model performance are considered, including their sensitivity to physical parameterizations and initialization time, and the spatial statistics of rainfall accumulations and the rain-rate distribution. While the simulations highlight many challenges and difficulties in correctly modeling the convection in the two regimes, they show that provided the mesoscale environment is adequately reproduced by the model, the statistics of the simulated rainfall agrees reasonably well with the observations.

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