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Aerosol-induced mechanisms for cumulus congestus growth

Sheffield, A. M., S. Saleeby, and S. van den Heever (2015), Aerosol-induced mechanisms for cumulus congestus growth, J. Geophys. Res., 120, 8941-8952, doi:10.1002/2015JD023743.

Tropical convection has been observed to contain three cloud modes, the middle of which is cumulus congestus clouds. Congestus clouds act to moisten the tropical atmosphere, may be mixed-phase, and on occasion surpass the freezing level inversion from where they may develop into deeper convection. This study investigates the impacts of enhanced aerosol concentrations on the growth of congestus clouds produced in idealized cloud-resolving model simulations run under a state of radiative convective equilibrium (RCE). High-resolution, long-duration simulations were completed using the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS). Aerosol concentrations between 2 and 4 km above ground level were varied from clean to polluted conditions in order to represent the advection of Saharan dust over the Atlantic Ocean. The congestus populations within each aerosol simulation are statistically analyzed using 10 days of model output after the simulation reaches RCE. Results indicate that congestus in more polluted conditions produce greater amounts of cloud water and ice mass, enhanced updraft strengths, and an increase in the number of congestus cloud tops that extend above the freezing level. Enhanced vapor depositional growth on the populations of more numerous, smaller cloud droplets in the polluted conditions, and the subsequent increase in latent heat release in the warm phase regions of the cloud, is found to be important factors in convective invigoration of these cloud systems. Aerosol feedbacks associated with cold pools and condensate loading also influence the updraft strength and act in opposition to the warm phase invigoration processes.

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