1Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, USA
2Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA, USA
3Center for Interdisciplinary Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Studies, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, USA
4Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, University of California Davis, Davis, CA, USA
Abstract. Aircraft sampling of the stratocumulus-topped boundary layer (STBL) during the Physics of Stratocumulus Top (POST) experiment was primarily achieved using sawtooth flight patterns, during which the atmospheric layer 100 m above and below cloud top was sampled at a frequency of once every 2 min. The large data set that resulted from each of the 16 flights document the complex structure and variability of this interfacial region in a variety of conditions. In this study, we first describe some properties of the entrainment interface layer (EIL), where strong gradients in turbulent kinetic energy (TKE), potential temperature and moisture can be found. We find that defining the EIL by the first two properties tends to yield similar results, but that moisture can be a misleading tracer of the EIL. These results are consistent with studies using large-eddy simulations. We next utilize the POST data to shed light on and constrain processes relevant to entrainment, a key process in the evolution of the STBL that to-date is not well-represented even by high resolution models. We define "entrainment efficiency" as the ratio of the TKE consumed by entrainment to that generated within the STBL (primarily by cloud-top cooling). We find values for the entrainment efficiency that vary by 1.5 orders of magnitude, which is even greater than the one order magnitude that previous modeling results have suggested. Our analysis also demonstrates that the entrainment efficiency depends on the strength of the stratification of the EIL, but not on the TKE in the cloud top region. The relationships between entrainment efficiency and other STBL parameters serve as novel observational contraints for simulations of entrainment in such systems.