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Sensitivity of Warm-Frontal Processes to Cloud-Nucleating Aerosol Concentrations

Igel, A. L., S. van den Heever, C. M. Naud, S. Saleeby, and D. Posselt (2013), Sensitivity of Warm-Frontal Processes to Cloud-Nucleating Aerosol Concentrations, J. Atmos. Sci., 70, 1768-1783, doi:10.1175/JAS-D-12-0170.1.

An extratropical cyclone that crossed the United States on 9–11 April 2009 was successfully simulated at high resolution (3-km horizontal grid spacing) using the Colorado State University Regional Atmospheric Modeling System. The sensitivity of the associated warm front to increasing pollution levels was then explored by conducting the same experiment with three different background profiles of cloud-nucleating aerosol concentration. To the authors’ knowledge, no study has examined the indirect effects of aerosols on warm fronts. The budgets of ice, cloud water, and rain in the simulation with the lowest aerosol concentrations were examined. The ice mass was found to be produced in equal amounts through vapor deposition and riming, and the melting of ice produced approximately 75% of the total rain. Conversion of cloud water to rain accounted for the other 25%. When cloud-nucleating aerosol concentrations were increased, significant changes were seen in the budget terms, but total precipitation remained relatively constant. Vapor deposition onto ice increased, but riming of cloud water decreased such that there was only a small change in the total ice production and hence there was no significant change in melting. These responses can be understood in terms of a buffering effect in which smaller cloud droplets in the mixed-phase region lead to both an enhanced vapor deposition and decreased riming efficiency with increasing aerosol concentrations. Overall, while large changes were seen in the microphysical structure of the frontal cloud, cloud-nucleating aerosols had little impact on the precipitation production of the warm front.

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