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Understanding the Importance of Microphysics and Macrophysics for Warm Rain in...

Wood, R., T. L. Kubar, and D. Hartmann (2009), Understanding the Importance of Microphysics and Macrophysics for Warm Rain in Marine Low Clouds. Part II: Heuristic Models of Rain Formation, J. Atmos. Sci., 66, 2973-2990, doi:10.1175/2009JAS3072.1.

Two simple heuristic model formulations for warm rain formation are introduced and their behavior explored. The first, which is primarily aimed at representing warm rain formation in shallow convective clouds, is a continuous collection model that uses an assumed cloud droplet size distribution consistent with observations as the source of embryonic drizzle drops that are then allowed to fall through a fixed cloud, accreting cloud droplets. The second, which is applicable to steady-state precipitation formation in stratocumulus, is a simple two-moment bulk autoconversion and accretion model in which cloud liquid water is removed by drizzle formation and replenished on a externally specified time scale that reflects the efficacy of turbulent overturning that characterizes stratocumulus.

The models’ behavior is shown to be broadly consistent with observations from the A-Train constellation of satellites, allowing the authors to explore reasons for changing model sensitivity to microphysical and macrophysical cloud properties. The models are consistent with one another, and with the observations, in that they demonstrate that the sensitivity of rain rate to cloud droplet concentration Nd (which here represents microphysical influence) is greatest for weakly precipitating clouds (i.e., for low cloud liquid water path and/or high Nd). For the steady-state model, microphysical sensitivity is shown to strongly decrease with the ratio of replenishment to drizzle time scales. Thus, rain from strongly drizzling and/or weakly replenished clouds shows low sensitivity to microphysics. This is essentially because most precipitation in these clouds is forming via accretion rather than autoconversion. For the continuous-collection model, as cloud liquid water content increases, the precipitation rate becomes more strongly controlled by the availability of cloud liquid water than by the initial embryo size or by the cloud droplet size. The models help to explain why warm rain in marine stratocumulus clouds is sensitive to Nd but why precipitation from thicker cumulus clouds appears to be less so.

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