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The Role of Cloud Microphysics Parameterization in the Simulation of Mesoscale...

Van Weverberg, K., A. M. Vogelmann, W. Lin, E. P. Luke, A. Cialella, P. Minnis, M. Khaiyer, E. R. Boer, and M. P. Jensen (2013), The Role of Cloud Microphysics Parameterization in the Simulation of Mesoscale Convective System Clouds and Precipitation in the Tropical Western Pacific, J. Atmos. Sci., 70, 1104-1128, doi:10.1175/JAS-D-12-0104.1.
Abstract: 

This paper presents a detailed analysis of convection-permitting cloud simulations, aimed at increasing the understanding of the role of parameterized cloud microphysics in the simulation of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) in the tropical western Pacific (TWP). Simulations with three commonly used bulk microphysics parameterizations with varying complexity have been compared against satellite-retrieved cloud properties. An MCS identification and tracking algorithm was applied to the observations and the simulations to evaluate the number, spatial extent, and microphysical properties of individual cloud systems. Different from many previous studies, these individual cloud systems could be tracked over larger distances because of the large TWP domain studied.

The analysis demonstrates that the simulation of MCSs is very sensitive to the parameterization of microphysical processes. The most crucial element was found to be the fall velocity of frozen condensate. Differences in this fall velocity between the experiments were more related to differences in particle number concentrations than to fall speed parameterization. Microphysics schemes that exhibit slow sedimentation rates for ice aloft experience a larger buildup of condensate in the upper troposphere. This leads to more numerous and/or larger MCSs with larger anvils. Mean surface precipitation was found to be overestimated and insensitive to the microphysical schemes employed in this study. In terms of the investigated properties, the performances of complex two-moment schemes were not superior to the simpler one-moment schemes, since explicit prediction of number concentration does not necessarily improve processes such as ice nucleation, the aggregation of ice crystals into snowflakes, and their sedimentation characteristics.

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Research Program: 
Modeling Analysis and Prediction Program (MAP)