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The Importance of the Shape of Cloud Droplet Size Distributions in Shallow...

Igel, A. L., and S. van den Heever (2017), The Importance of the Shape of Cloud Droplet Size Distributions in Shallow Cumulus Clouds. Part II: Bulk Microphysics Simulations, J. Atmos. Sci., 74, 259-273, doi:10.1175/JAS-D-15-0383.1.

In this two-part study, relationships between the cloud gamma size distribution shape parameter, microphysical processes, and cloud characteristics of nonprecipitating shallow cumulus clouds are investigated using large-eddy simulations. In Part I, the dependence of the shape parameter (which is closely related to the distribution width) on cloud properties and processes was investigated. However, the distribution width also impacts cloud process rates and in turn cloud properties, and it is this aspect of the relationship that is explored in Part II and is discussed in the context of aerosol–cloud interactions. In simulations with a bulk microphysics scheme, it is found that the evaporation rates are much more sensitive to the value of the shape parameter than to the condensation rates. This is due to changes in both the rate of removal of mass and the rate of removal of fully evaporated droplets. As a result, cloud properties such as droplet number concentration, mean droplet diameter, and cloud fraction are strongly impacted by the value of the shape parameter, particularly in the subsaturated regions of the clouds. These changes can be on the same order of magnitude as changes due to increasing or decreasing the aerosol concentration by a factor of 16. Particular attention is paid to the impact of the shape parameter on cloud albedo. The cloud albedo increases as the shape parameter is increased as a result of the changes in evaporation. The magnitude of the increase is about 4 times larger than previous estimates. However, this increase in cloud albedo is largely offset by a decrease in the cloud fraction, which results in only small increases to the domain-average albedo. Implications for the aerosol relative dispersion effect are discussed.

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