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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2019-1015
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2019-1015
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 20 Dec 2019

Submitted as: research article | 20 Dec 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

The vertical Structure and spatial Variability of lower tropospheric Water Vapor and Clouds in the Trades

Ann Kristin Naumann1,2 and Christoph Kiemle3 Ann Kristin Naumann and Christoph Kiemle
  • 1Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
  • 2Meteorological Institute, Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN), Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  • 3Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany

Abstract. Horizontal and vertical variability of water vapor is omnipresent in the tropics but its interaction with cloudiness poses challenges for weather and climate models. In this study we compare airborne lidar measurements from a summer and a winter field campaign in the tropical Atlantic with high-resolution simulations to analyse the water vapor distributions in the trade wind regime, its covariation with cloudiness and their representation in simulations. Across model grid spacing from 300 m to 2.5 km, the simulations show good skill in reproducing the water vapor distribution in the trades as measured by the lidar. An exception to this is a pronounced moist model bias at the top of the shallow cumulus layer in the dry winter season which is accompanied by a too weak humidity inversion at the cloud top. The model's underestimation of water vapor variability in the cloud and subcloud layer occurs in both seasons but is less pronounced. Despite the model's insensitivity to resolution from hecto- to kilometer scale for the distribution of water vapor, cloud fraction decreases strongly with increasing model resolution and is not converged at hectometer grid spacing. The observed cloud deepening with increasing water vapor path is captured well across model resolution but the concurrent transition from cloud-free to low cloud fraction is better represented at hectometer resolution. In particular, in the wet summer season the simulations with kilometer-scale resolution overestimate the observed cloud fraction near the inversion but lack condensate near the observed cloud base. This illustrates how a model's ability to properly capture the water vapor distribution does not need to translate into an adequate representation of shallow cumulus clouds that live at the tail of the water vapor distribution.

Ann Kristin Naumann and Christoph Kiemle
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Ann Kristin Naumann and Christoph Kiemle
Ann Kristin Naumann and Christoph Kiemle
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Short summary
The interaction of water vapor and cloudiness poses challenges for weather and climate models. In this study we compare airborne lidar measurements from two field campaigns in the tropical Atlantic with high-resolution simulations. We find that at kilometer-scale grid spacing, the simulations show good skill in reproducing the water vapor distribution in the trades but struggle to capture the transition from cloud-free to low cloud fraction with increasing moisture.
The interaction of water vapor and cloudiness poses challenges for weather and climate models....
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