Factors controlling rapid stratocumulus cloud thinning

JJ van der Dussen, SR de Roode, AP Siebesma

The relationship between the inversion stability and the liquid water path (LWP) tendency of a vertically well-mixed, adiabatic stratocumulus cloud layer is investigated in this study through the analysis of the budget equation for the LWP. The LWP budget is mainly determined by the turbulent fluxes of heat and moisture at the top and the base of the cloud layer, as well as by the source terms due to radiation and precipitation. Through substitution of the inversion stability parameter kappa into the budget equation, it immediately follows that the LWP tendency will become negative for increasing values of kappa due to the entrainment of increasingly dry air. Large
kappa values are therefore associated with strong cloud thinning. Using the steady-state solution for
the LWP, an equilibrium value kappa_eq is formulated, beyond which the stratocumulus cloud will thin. The Second Dynamics and Chemistry of Marine Stratocumulus field study (DYCOMS-II) is used to illustrate that, depending mainly on the magnitude of the moisture flux at cloud base, stratocumulus clouds can persist well within the buoyancy reversal regime.

Bibliographic data

JJ van der Dussen, SR de Roode, AP Siebesma. Factors controlling rapid stratocumulus cloud thinning
Status: published, Journal: J. Atmos. Sci., Volume: 71, Year: 2014, First page: 655, Last page: 664, doi: 10.1175/JAS-D-13-0114.1