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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 01 Jul 2019

Research article | 01 Jul 2019

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

The sub-adiabatic model as a concept for evaluating the representation and radiative effects of low-level clouds in a high-resolution atmospheric model

Vasileios Barlakas, Hartwig Deneke, and Andreas Macke Vasileios Barlakas et al.
  • Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research, Leipzig, Germany

Abstract. The realistic representation of low-level clouds, including their radiative effects, in atmospheric models remains challenging. A sensitivity study is presented to establish a conceptual approach for the evaluation of low-level clouds and their radiative impact in a highly resolved atmospheric model. Considering simulations for six case days, the analysis supports that the properties of clouds more closely match the assumptions of the sub-adiabatic rather than the vertically homogeneous cloud model, suggesting its use as basis for evaluation. For the considered cases, 95.7 % of the variance in cloud optical thickness is explained by the variance in the liquid water path, while the droplet number concentration and the sub-adiabatic fraction contribute only 3.5 % and 0.14 % to the total variance, respectively. A mean sub-adiabatic fraction of 0.45 is found, which exhibits strong inter-day variability. Applying a principal component analysis and subsequent varimax rotation to the considered set of nine properties, four dominating modes of variability are identified, which explain 98 % of the total variance. The first and second components correspond to the cloud base and top height, and to liquid water path, optical thickness, and cloud geometrical extent, respectively, while the cloud droplet number concentration and the sub-adiabatic fraction are the strongest contributors to the third and fourth components. Using idealized offline radiative transfer calculations, it is confirmed that the shortwave and longwave cloud radiative effect exhibits little sensitivity to the vertical structure of clouds. Instead, the cloud optical thickness and the cloud top and bottom heights are the dominating factors which determine the shortwave and longwave cloud radiative effects, respectively, with high accuracy. Considering the different representations of cloud microphysical processes in atmospheric models, the analysis has been further extended and the deviations between the radiative impact of the single- and double-moment schemes are assessed. Contrasting the shortwave cloud radiative effect obtained from the double-moment scheme to that of a single moment scheme, a bias of about ~ 40 W m−2 and significant scatter is observed. The bias is attributable to a higher cloud albedo resulting from the high values of droplet number concentration in particular in the boundary layer predicted by the double-moment scheme, which reach median values of around ~ 600 cm−3.

Vasileios Barlakas et al.
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Vasileios Barlakas et al.
Vasileios Barlakas et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
By means of a high-resolution model, we demonstrated the suitability of the sub-adiabatic cloud model to serve as a conceptual tool for the evaluation of the representation of low-level clouds and to capture the relevant properties that determine the shortwave cloud radiative effect. We also highlighted the differences in cloud radiative effect resulting from different cloud microphysics schemes used in models and pointed to the need to better account for prognostic droplet number concentration.
By means of a high-resolution model, we demonstrated the suitability of the sub-adiabatic cloud...