1Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
2Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
Abstract. A cloud-resolving model (CRM) coupled to a new intermediate-complexity bulk aerosol scheme is used to study aerosol–boundary-layer–cloud–precipitation interactions and the development of pockets of open cells (POCs) in subtropical stratocumulus cloud layers. The aerosol scheme prognoses mass and number concentration of a single lognormal accumulation mode with surface and entrainment sources, evolving subject to processing of activated aerosol and scavenging of dry aerosol by clouds and rain.
The CRM with the aerosol scheme is applied to a range of steadily forced cases idealized from a well-observed POC. The long-term system evolution is explored with extended two-dimensional (2-D) simulations of up to 20 days, mostly with diurnally averaged insolation and 24 km wide domains, and one 10 day three-dimensional (3-D) simulation. Both 2-D and 3-D simulations support the Baker–Charlson hypothesis of two distinct aerosol–cloud "regimes" (deep/high-aerosol/non-drizzling and shallow/low-aerosol/drizzling) that persist for days; transitions between these regimes, driven by either precipitation scavenging or aerosol entrainment from the free-troposphere (FT), occur on a timescale of ten hours. The system is analyzed using a two-dimensional phase plane with inversion height and boundary layer average aerosol concentrations as state variables; depending on the specified subsidence rate and availability of FT aerosol, these regimes are either stable equilibria or distinct legs of a slow limit cycle.
The same steadily forced modeling framework is applied to the coupled development and evolution of a POC and the surrounding overcast boundary layer in a larger 192 km wide domain. An initial 50% aerosol reduction is applied to half of the model domain. This has little effect until the stratocumulus thickens enough to drizzle, at which time the low-aerosol portion transitions into open-cell convection, forming a POC. Reduced entrainment in the POC induces a negative feedback between the areal fraction covered by the POC and boundary layer depth changes. This stabilizes the system by controlling liquid water path and precipitation sinks of aerosol number in the overcast region, while also preventing boundary layer collapse within the POC, allowing the POC and overcast to coexist indefinitely in a quasi-steady equilibrium.