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 large-eddy simulation (LES) coupled to a new bulk aerosol scheme is used to study long-lived regimes of aerosol-boundary layer cloud-precipitation interaction 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 log-normal accumulation mode with surface and entrainment sources, evolving subject to processing of activated aerosol and scavenging of dry aerosol by cloud and rain.
The LES with the aerosol scheme is applied to a range of steadily-forced simulations idealized from a well-observed POC case. The long-term system evolution is explored with extended two-dimensional simulations of up to 20 days, mostly with diurnally-averaged insolation. One three-dimensional two-day simulation confirms the initial development of the corresponding two-dimensional case. With weak mean subsidence, an initially aerosol-rich mixed layer deepens, the capping stratocumulus cloud slowly thickens and increasingly depletes aerosol via precipitation accretion, then the boundary layer transitions within a few hours into an open-cell regime with scattered precipitating cumuli, in which entrainment is much weaker. The inversion slowly collapses for several days until the cumulus clouds are too shallow to efficiently precipitate. Inversion cloud then reforms and radiatively drives renewed entrainment, allowing the boundary layer to deepen and become more aerosol-rich, until the stratocumulus layer thickens enough to undergo another cycle of open-cell formation. If mean subsidence is stronger, the stratocumulus never thickens enough to initiate drizzle and settles into a steady state. With lower initial aerosol concentrations, this system quickly transitions into open cells, collapses, and redevelops into a different steady state with a shallow, optically thin cloud layer. In these steady states, interstitial scavenging by cloud droplets is the main sink of aerosol number. The system is described in a reduced two-dimensional phase plane with inversion height and boundary-layer average aerosol concentrations as the state variables. Simulations with a full diurnal cycle show similar evolutions, except that open-cell formation is phase-locked into the early morning hours.
The same steadily-forced modeling framework is applied to the development and evolution of a POC and the surrounding overcast boundary layer. An initial aerosol perturbation applied to a portion of the model domain leads that portion to transition into open-cell convection, forming a POC. Reduced entrainment in the POC induces a negative feedback between 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.