Constraining precipitation initiation in marine stratocumulus using aircraft observations and LES with high spectral resolution bin microphysics
Abstract:Turbulence has been suggested as one possible mechanism to accelerate the onset of autoconversion and widen the process “bottleneck” in the formation of warm rain. While direct observation of the collision-coalescence process remains beyond the reach of present-day instrumentation, co-located sampling of atmospheric motion and the drop size spectrum allows for comparison of in situ observations with simulation results to test representations of drop growth processes.
This study evaluates whether observations of drops in the autoconversion regime can be replicated using our best theoretical understanding of collision-coalescence. A state-of-the-art turbulent collisional growth model is applied to a bin microphysics scheme within a large-eddy simulation such that the full range of cloud drop growth mechanisms are represented (i.e. CCN activation, condensation, collision-coalescence, mixing, etc.) at realistic atmospheric conditions. The spectral resolution of the microphysics scheme has been quadrupled in order to (a) more closely match the resolution of the observational instrumentation and (b) limit numerical diffusion, which leads to spurious broadening of the drop size spectrum at standard mass-doubling resolution. We compare simulated cloud drop spectra with those obtained from aircraft observations to assess the quality and limits of our theoretical knowledge. The comparison is performed for two observational cases from the Physics of Stratocumulus Top (POST) field campaign: 12 August 2008 (drizzling night flight, Rmax~2 mm/d) and 15 August 2008 (nondrizzling day flight, Rmax<0.5 mm/d). Both flights took place off the coast of Monterey, CA and the two cases differ in their radiative cooling rates, shear, cloud-top temperature and moisture jumps, and entrainment rates. Initial results from a collision box model suggest that enhancements of approximately 2 orders of magnitude over theoretical turbulent collision rates may be necessary to reproduce the observations.