Aerosol and Dry Air Entrainment Impacts on Thermally Driven Orographic Clouds and the Development of Precipitation

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Alison D Nugent1, Campbell D Watson1, Gregory Thompson2 and Ronald B Smith1, (1)Yale University, New Haven, CT, United States, (2)National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, United States
Precipitation generation in a cumulus cloud depends on the nature of available aerosols and the turbulent entrainment of dry air. These two processes were observed in the orographic clouds during the DOMEX (Dominica Experiment) field campaign. On days with thermally driven convection, little precipitation develops and the orographic clouds are composed on average of clouds with 125 cm-3 droplet number concentration and 15 μm cloud droplet diameter. Aerosol number concentrations as high as 325 cm-3 are found in the detrained air above the tropical island of Dominica. The island surface aerosol source and the relatively dry cloud layer are two independent variables that play a role in the composition and development of the observed orographic clouds.

We use idealized 3D WRF simulations with the new aerosol-aware Thompson and Eidhammer microphysics scheme to compare with observations. A 1 km high mountain with a constant surface sensible heat flux drives convection with no background wind. Four simulations are performed to explore the parameter space with and without an aerosol source, and with a dry and moist cloud layer: (1) aerosol source / dry, (2) aerosol source / moist, (3) no source / dry, and (4) no source / moist. The aerosol source is composed of an organic-like aerosol with a mean radius of 0.08 μm and a hygroscopicity of 0.6. The aerosol flux comes only from the island surface at a rate of 5 aerosols cm-3 s-1 or 1.5x108 aerosols m-2 s-1. Precipitation efficiency, drying ratio, and microphysical conversion rates of liquid water are computed and tracked, and cloud and rain water mass and number budgets are completed. Comparing the development of orographic clouds and precipitation in the four simulations leads toward an improved understanding of the observations and the relative controls on convection.