A comprehensive numerical study of aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions in marine stratocumulus
1Division of Engineering and Applied Science, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
2National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder, Colorado, USA
3Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, Washington, USA
4Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
Abstract. Three-dimensional large-eddy simulations (LES) with detailed bin-resolved microphysics are performed to explore the diurnal variation of marine stratocumulus (MSc) clouds under clean and polluted conditions. The sensitivity of the aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions to variation of sea surface temperature, free tropospheric humidity, large-scale divergence rate, and wind speed is assessed. The comprehensive set of simulations corroborates previous studies that (1) with moderate/heavy drizzle, an increase in aerosol leads to an increase in cloud thickness; and (2) with non/light drizzle, an increase in aerosol results in a thinner cloud, due to the pronounced effect on entrainment. It is shown that for higher SST, stronger large-scale divergence, drier free troposphere, or lower wind speed, the cloud thins and precipitation decreases. The sign and magnitude of the Twomey effect, droplet dispersion effect, cloud thickness effect, and cloud optical depth susceptibility to aerosol perturbations (i.e., change in cloud optical depth to change in aerosol number concentration) are evaluated by LES experiments and compared with analytical formulations. The Twomey effect emerges as dominant in total cloud optical depth susceptibility to aerosol perturbations. The dispersion effect, that of aerosol perturbations on the cloud droplet size spectrum, is positive (i.e., increase in aerosol leads to spectral narrowing) and accounts for 3% to 10% of the total cloud optical depth susceptibility at nighttime, with greater influence in heavier drizzling clouds. The cloud thickness effect is negative (i.e., increase in aerosol leads to thinner cloud) for non/light drizzling cloud and positive for a moderate/heavy drizzling clouds; the cloud thickness effect contributes 5% to 22% of the nighttime total cloud susceptibility. Overall, the total cloud optical depth susceptibility ranges from ~0.28 to 0.53 at night; an increase in aerosol concentration enhances cloud optical depth, especially with heavier precipitation and in a more pristine environment. During the daytime, the range of magnitude for each effect is more variable owing to cloud thinning and decoupling. The good agreement between LES experiments and analytical formulations suggests that the latter may be useful in evaluations of the total cloud susceptibility. The ratio of the magnitude of the cloud thickness effect to that of the Twomey effect depends on cloud base height and cloud thickness in unperturbed (clean) clouds.