On the potential influence of ice nuclei on surface-forced marine stratocumulus cloud dynamics

Jerry Y. Harrington, Peter Q. Olsson

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The mixed phase cloudy boundary layer that occurs during off-ice flow in the marine Arctic was simulated in an environment with a strong surface heat flux (nearly 800 W m-2). A two-dimensional, eddy-resolving model coupled to a detailed cloud microphysical model was used to study both liquid phase and mixed phase stratocumulus clouds and boundary layer (BL) dynamics in this environment. Since ice precipitation may be important to BL dynamics, and ice nuclei (IN) concentrations modulate ice precipitation rates, the role of IN in cloud and BL development was explored. The results of several simulations illustrate how mixed phase microphysical processes affect the evolution of the cloudy BL in this environment. In agreement with past studies, BLs with mixed phase clouds had weaker convection, shallower BL depths, and smaller cloud fractions than BLs with clouds restricted to the liquid phase only. It is shown that the weaker BL convection is due to strong ice precipitation. Ice precipitation reduces convective strength directly by stabilizing downdrafts and more indirectly by sensibly heating the BL and inhibiting vertical mixing of momentum thereby reducing surface heat fluxes by as much as 80 W m-2. This feedback between precipitation and surface fluxes was found to have a significant impact on cloud/BL morphology, producing oscillations in convective strength and cloud fraction that did not occur if surface fluxes were fixed at constant values. Increases in IN concentrations in mixed phase clouds caused a more rapid Bergeron-Findeisen process leading to larger precipitation fluxes, reduced convection and lower cloud fraction. When IN were removed from the BL through precipitation, fewer crystals were nucleated at later simulation times leading to progressively weaker precipitation rates, greater cloud fraction, and stronger convective BL eddies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2000JD000236
Pages (from-to)27473-27484
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue numberD21
StatePublished - Nov 16 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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