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A Model for Particle Microphysics, Turbulent Mixing, and Radiative Transfer in the Stratocumulus-Topped Marine Boundary Layer and Comparisons with Measurements

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  • 1 Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  • | 2 Space Science Division, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California
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Abstract

A detailed 1D model of the stratocumulus-topped marine boundary layer is described. The model has three coupled components: a microphysics module that resolves the size distributions of aerosols and cloud droplets, a turbulence module that treats vertical mixing between layers, and a multiple wavelength radiative transfer module that calculates radiative heating rates and cloud optical properties.

The results of a 12-h model simulation reproduce reasonably well the bulk thermodynamics, microphysical properties, and radiative fluxes measured in an ∼500-m thick, summertime marine stratocumulus cloud layer by Nicholls. However, in this case, the model predictions of turbulent fluxes between the cloud and subcloud layers exceed the measurements. Results of model simulations are also compared to measurements of a marine stratus layer made under gale conditions and with measurements of a high, thin marine stratocumulus layer. The variations in cloud properties are generally reproduced by the model, although it underpredicts the entrainment of overlying air at cloud top under gale conditions.

Sensitivities of the model results are explored. The vertical profile of cloud droplet concentration is sensitive to the lower size cutoff of the droplet size distribution due to the presence of unactivated haze particles in the lower region of the modeled cloud. Increases in total droplet concentrations do not always produce less drizzle and more cloud water in the model. The radius of the mean droplet volume does not correlate consistently with drizzle, but the effective droplet radius does. The greatest impacts on cloud properties predicted by the model are produced by halving the width of the size distribution of input condensation nuclei and by omitting the effect of cloud-top radiative cooling on the condensational growth of cloud droplets. The omission of infrared scattering produces noticeable changes in cloud properties. The collection efficiencies for droplets <30-µm radius, and the value of the accommodation coefficient for condensational droplet growth, have noticeable effects on cloud properties. The divergence of the horizontal wind also has a significant effect on a 12-h model simulation of cloud structure.

Conclusions drawn from the model are tentative because of the limitations of the 1D model framework. A principal simplification is that the model assumes horizontal homogeneity, and, therefore, does not resolve updrafts and downdrafts. Likely consequences of this simplification include overprediction of the growth of droplets by condensation in the upper region of the cloud, underprediction of droplet condensational growth in the lower region of the cloud, and underprediction of peak supersaturations.

Abstract

A detailed 1D model of the stratocumulus-topped marine boundary layer is described. The model has three coupled components: a microphysics module that resolves the size distributions of aerosols and cloud droplets, a turbulence module that treats vertical mixing between layers, and a multiple wavelength radiative transfer module that calculates radiative heating rates and cloud optical properties.

The results of a 12-h model simulation reproduce reasonably well the bulk thermodynamics, microphysical properties, and radiative fluxes measured in an ∼500-m thick, summertime marine stratocumulus cloud layer by Nicholls. However, in this case, the model predictions of turbulent fluxes between the cloud and subcloud layers exceed the measurements. Results of model simulations are also compared to measurements of a marine stratus layer made under gale conditions and with measurements of a high, thin marine stratocumulus layer. The variations in cloud properties are generally reproduced by the model, although it underpredicts the entrainment of overlying air at cloud top under gale conditions.

Sensitivities of the model results are explored. The vertical profile of cloud droplet concentration is sensitive to the lower size cutoff of the droplet size distribution due to the presence of unactivated haze particles in the lower region of the modeled cloud. Increases in total droplet concentrations do not always produce less drizzle and more cloud water in the model. The radius of the mean droplet volume does not correlate consistently with drizzle, but the effective droplet radius does. The greatest impacts on cloud properties predicted by the model are produced by halving the width of the size distribution of input condensation nuclei and by omitting the effect of cloud-top radiative cooling on the condensational growth of cloud droplets. The omission of infrared scattering produces noticeable changes in cloud properties. The collection efficiencies for droplets <30-µm radius, and the value of the accommodation coefficient for condensational droplet growth, have noticeable effects on cloud properties. The divergence of the horizontal wind also has a significant effect on a 12-h model simulation of cloud structure.

Conclusions drawn from the model are tentative because of the limitations of the 1D model framework. A principal simplification is that the model assumes horizontal homogeneity, and, therefore, does not resolve updrafts and downdrafts. Likely consequences of this simplification include overprediction of the growth of droplets by condensation in the upper region of the cloud, underprediction of droplet condensational growth in the lower region of the cloud, and underprediction of peak supersaturations.

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