The Spiderweb Structure of Stratocumulus Clouds

Matheou, G., A. B. Davis, and J. Teixeira (2020), The Spiderweb Structure of Stratocumulus Clouds, Atmosphere, 11, 730, doi:10.3390/atmos11070730.

Stratocumulus clouds have a distinctive structure composed of a combination of lumpy cellular structures and thin elongated regions, resembling canyons or slits. The elongated slits are referred to as “spiderweb” structure to emphasize their interconnected nature. Using very high resolution large-eddy simulations (LES), it is shown that the spiderweb structure is generated by cloud-top evaporative cooling. Analysis of liquid water path (LWP) and cloud liquid water content shows that cloud-top evaporative cooling generates relatively shallow slits near the cloud top. Most of liquid water mass is concentrated near the cloud top, thus cloud-top slits of clear air have a large impact on the entire-column LWP. When evaporative cooling is suppressed in the LES, LWP exhibits cellular lumpy structure without the elongated low-LWP regions. Even though the spiderweb signature on the LWP distribution is negligible, the cloud-top evaporative cooling process significantly affects integral boundary layer quantities, such as the vertically integrated turbulent kinetic energy, mean liquid water path, and entrainment rate. In a pair of simulations driven only by cloud-top radiative cooling, evaporative cooling nearly doubles the entrainment rate.

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Modeling Analysis and Prediction Program (MAP)
Radiation Science Program (RSP)