Small-Scale Variability in Warm Continental Cumulus Clouds

P. H. Austin Geophysics Program, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195

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M. B. Baker Geophysics Program, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195

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A. M. Blyth Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071

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J. B. Jensen Department of Civil Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195

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Abstract

We have analyzed small-scale fluctuations in microphysical, dynamical and thermodynamical parameters measured in two warm cumulus clouds during the Cooperative Convective Precipitation Experiment (CCOPE) project (1981) in light of predictions of several recent models. The measurements show the existence at all levels throughout the sampling period of two statistically distinct kinds of cloudy regions, termed “variable” and “steady,” often separated by transition zones of less than ten meters. There is some evidence for microphysical variability induced by local fluctuations in thermodynamic and dynamic parameters; however, the predominant variations are of a nature consistent with laboratory evidence suggesting that mixing is dominated by large structures. Entrainment appears to occur largely near cloud top but the data presented here do not permit identification of a mechanism for transport of the entrained air throughout the cloud.

Abstract

We have analyzed small-scale fluctuations in microphysical, dynamical and thermodynamical parameters measured in two warm cumulus clouds during the Cooperative Convective Precipitation Experiment (CCOPE) project (1981) in light of predictions of several recent models. The measurements show the existence at all levels throughout the sampling period of two statistically distinct kinds of cloudy regions, termed “variable” and “steady,” often separated by transition zones of less than ten meters. There is some evidence for microphysical variability induced by local fluctuations in thermodynamic and dynamic parameters; however, the predominant variations are of a nature consistent with laboratory evidence suggesting that mixing is dominated by large structures. Entrainment appears to occur largely near cloud top but the data presented here do not permit identification of a mechanism for transport of the entrained air throughout the cloud.

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