An Observational Study of the Role of Penetrating Cumulus in a Marine Stratocumulus-Topped Boundary Layer

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  • 1 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

Isolated cumuli penetrating through marine stratocumulus clouds were documented during the Atlantic Stratocumulus Transition Experiment. This paper aims at understanding the role of the penetrating cumulus in regulating stratocumulus and boundary-layer structure through analysis of data from the NCAR Electra aircraft. When penetrating cumulus clouds are present, the boundary layer is generally decoupled from the near-surface air except in the cumulus region. Therefore, air in the cumulus region includes air entrained at the cloud top, as well as air modified by surface processes. In the stratocumulus region, however, entrained inversion air and moist surface air are confined to separate layers. As a result, large horizontal variations are found in scalars, such as ozone and water vapor. Turbulence statistics and conditional sampling of entrainment events in the cumulus and stratocumulus regions indicate that stronger entrainment may occur at the cumulus top compared to the surrounding stratocumulus. This analysis is, however, complicated by insufficient sampling of cloud-top jump conditions in both regions.

Convergent flow in the lower boundary layer and compensating diverging flow in the upper boundary layer were identified along the flight trark. This flow field, together with the vertical coupling of surface air with the cloud layer in the cumulus region, helps to transport moisture upwards from the sea surface and disperse it to the surrounding stratocumulus sheet, thus helping to maintain the stratocumulus cover.

Abstract

Isolated cumuli penetrating through marine stratocumulus clouds were documented during the Atlantic Stratocumulus Transition Experiment. This paper aims at understanding the role of the penetrating cumulus in regulating stratocumulus and boundary-layer structure through analysis of data from the NCAR Electra aircraft. When penetrating cumulus clouds are present, the boundary layer is generally decoupled from the near-surface air except in the cumulus region. Therefore, air in the cumulus region includes air entrained at the cloud top, as well as air modified by surface processes. In the stratocumulus region, however, entrained inversion air and moist surface air are confined to separate layers. As a result, large horizontal variations are found in scalars, such as ozone and water vapor. Turbulence statistics and conditional sampling of entrainment events in the cumulus and stratocumulus regions indicate that stronger entrainment may occur at the cumulus top compared to the surrounding stratocumulus. This analysis is, however, complicated by insufficient sampling of cloud-top jump conditions in both regions.

Convergent flow in the lower boundary layer and compensating diverging flow in the upper boundary layer were identified along the flight trark. This flow field, together with the vertical coupling of surface air with the cloud layer in the cumulus region, helps to transport moisture upwards from the sea surface and disperse it to the surrounding stratocumulus sheet, thus helping to maintain the stratocumulus cover.

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