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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 25 Jun 2020

Submitted as: research article | 25 Jun 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Case study of a humidity layer above Arctic stratocumulus using balloon-borne turbulence and radiation measurements and large eddy simulations

Ulrike Egerer1, André Ehrlich2, Matthias Gottschalk2, Roel A. J. Neggers3, Holger Siebert1, and Manfred Wendisch2 Ulrike Egerer et al.
  • 1Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research, Permoserstr. 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
  • 2Leipzig Institute for Meteorology, University of Leipzig, Stephanstr. 3, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
  • 3Institute for Geophysics and Meteorology, University of Cologne, Pohligstr. 3, 50969 Cologne, Germany

Abstract. Specific humidity inversions occur frequently in the Arctic. The formation of these inversions is often associated with large scale advection of humid air. However, small-scale boundary layer processes interacting with the humidity inversions are not fully understood yet. In this study, we analyze a three-day period of a persistent layer of increased specific humidity above a stratocumulus cloud observed during an Arctic field campaign in June 2017. The tethered balloon system BELUGA (Balloon-bornE moduLar Utility for profilinG the lower Atmosphere) recorded high-resolution vertical profile measurements of turbulence and radiation in the atmospheric boundary layer. We find that the humidity inversion and the cloud layer are coupled by eddy dissipation, extending above the cloud boundary and linking both layers through turbulent mixing. One case reveals a strong negative virtual sensible heat flux at cloud top (eddy covariance estimate of −15 W/m2), indicating entrainment of humid air from above into the cloud layer. Large Eddy Simulations (LES) based on field campaign data are conducted to supplement the flux measurements. Independent experiments for two days confirm the observed entrainment of humid air, reproducing the observed negative turbulent fluxes of heat and moisture at cloud top. The LES realizations suggest that in the presence of a humidity layer the cloud layer remains thicker and the inversion height is slightly raised, reproducing results from previous idealized LES studies. While this acts to prevent cloud collapse, it remains unclear how the additional moisture is processed in the cloud and how exactly it contributes to the longevity of Arctic cloud layers.

Ulrike Egerer et al.

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Ulrike Egerer et al.

Ulrike Egerer et al.


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Short summary
This paper describes a case study of a three-day period with a persistent humidity inversion above a mixed-phase cloud layer in the Arctic. It is based on measurements with a tethered balloon, complemented with results from a dedicated high-resolution large-eddy simulation. Both methods show that the humidity layer acts to provide moisture to the cloud layer through downward turbulent transport. This supply of additional moisture can contribute to the persistence of Arctic clouds.
This paper describes a case study of a three-day period with a persistent humidity inversion...