Stratocumulus Cloud Clearings and Notable Thermodynamic and Aerosol Contrasts...

Crosbie, E., Z. Wang, A. Sorooshian, P. Y. Chuang, J. S. Craven, M. M. Coggon, M. Brunke, X. Zeng, H. Jonsson, R. Woods, R. C. Flagan, and J. H. Seinfeld (2016), Stratocumulus Cloud Clearings and Notable Thermodynamic and Aerosol Contrasts across the Clear–Cloudy Interface, J. Atmos. Sci., 73, 1083-1099, doi:10.1175/JAS-D-15-0137.1.

Data from three research flights, conducted over water near the California coast, are used to investigate the boundary between stratocumulus cloud decks and clearings of different sizes. Large clearings exhibit a diurnal cycle with growth during the day and contraction overnight and a multiday life cycle that can include oscillations between growth and decay, whereas a small coastal clearing was observed to be locally confined with a subdiurnal lifetime. Subcloud aerosol characteristics are similar on both sides of the clear–cloudy boundary in the three cases, while meteorological properties exhibit subtle, yet important, gradients, implying that dynamics, and not microphysics, is the primary driver for the clearing characteristics. Transects, made at multiple levels across the cloud boundary during one flight, highlight the importance of microscale (;1 km) structure in thermodynamic properties near the cloud edge, suggesting that dynamic forcing at length scales comparable to the convective eddy scale may be influential to the larger-scale characteristics of the clearing. These results have implications for modeling and observational studies of marine boundary layer clouds, especially in relation to aerosol–cloud interactions and scales of variability responsible for the evolution of stratocumulus clearings.

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Modeling Analysis and Prediction Program (MAP)