Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 13, 2493-2547, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in ACP.
Development and impact of hooks of large droplet concentration on remote southeast Pacific stratocumulus
R. C. George, R. Wood, C. S. Bretherton, and G. Painter
University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA

Abstract. Over the southeastern Pacific (SEP), droplet concentration (Nd) in the typically unpolluted marine stratocumulus west of 80° W (> 1000 km offshore) is periodically strongly enhanced in zonally-elongated "hook"-shaped arcs that increase albedo. Here, we examine three hook events using the chemistry version of the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF-Chem) with 14 km horizontal resolution, satellite data and aircraft data from the VAMOS Ocean-Cloud-Atmosphere-Land Study Regional Experiment (VOCALS-REx). A particularly strong hook yields insights to the development, decay, and radiative impact of these features. Hook development occurs with Nd increasing to polluted levels over the remote ocean primarily due to entrainment of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) from the free troposphere (FT). The feature advects northwestward until the FT CCN source is depleted, after which Nd decreases over a few days due to precipitation and dilution. The model suggests that the FT CCN source supplying the hook consists of high concentrations of small accumulation mode aerosols that contribute a relatively small amount of aerosol mass to the MBL. The aerosol particles originate mainly from a pulse of offshore flow that transports Santiago region (33–35° S) emissions to the marine FT.

To provide a sustained hook CCN source, the FT transport of pollution plumes to the remote ocean requires strong, deep offshore flow. Such flow is favored by a trough approaching the South American coast and a southeastward shift of the climatological subtropical high pressure system. The model simulations show precipitation suppression in the hook and a corresponding increase in liquid water path (LWP) compared with a simulation without anthropogenic sources. LWP also increases in time as the hook evolves due to increasing stability and decreasing subsidence. WRF-Chem suggests that DMS significantly influences the aerosol number and size distributions in a hook, but that hooks do not form without FT CCN. The Twomey effect contributes ~ 50–70% of the albedo increase due the presence of the hook, while secondary aerosol indirect effects and meteorological influences also contribute significantly.

The source of hook aerosols is difficult to determine with the available observations alone. The model explains the observations and puts them in context of the factors influencing hook formation. Two other weaker hooks during VOCALS-REx are not as well simulated but are also associated with FT offshore flow near Santiago. Hooks demonstrate the importance of free-tropospheric transport of aerosols in modulating the droplet concentration in the southeastern Pacific stratocumulus deck, and present a formidable challenge to simulate accurately in large scale models.

Citation: George, R. C., Wood, R., Bretherton, C. S., and Painter, G.: Development and impact of hooks of large droplet concentration on remote southeast Pacific stratocumulus, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 13, 2493-2547, doi:10.5194/acpd-13-2493-2013, 2013.
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