Impacts of Cloud Droplet–Nucleating Aerosols on Shallow Tropical Convection

Saleeby, S. M., S. R. Herbener, S. van den Heever, and T. L'Ecuyer (2015), Impacts of Cloud Droplet–Nucleating Aerosols on Shallow Tropical Convection, J. Atmos. Sci., 72, 1369-1385, doi:10.1175/JAS-D-14-0153.1.

Low-level warm-phase clouds cover a substantial portion of Earth’s oceans and play an important role in the global water and energy budgets. The characteristics of these clouds are controlled by the large-scale environment, boundary layer conditions, and cloud microphysics. Variability in the concentration of aerosols can alter cloud microphysical and precipitation processes that subsequently impact the system dynamics and thermodynamics and thereby create aerosol–cloud dynamic–thermodynamic feedback effects. In this study, three distinct cloud regimes were simulated, including stratocumulus, low-level cumulus (cumulus under stratocumulus), and deeper cumulus clouds. The simulations were conducted without environmental largescale forcing, thereby allowing all three cloud types to freely interact with the environmental state in an undamped fashion. Increases in aerosol concentration in these unforced, warm-phase, tropical cloud simulations lead to the production of fewer low-level cumuli; thinning and erosion of the widespread stratocumulus layer; and the development of deeper, inversion-penetrating cumuli. The mechanisms for these changes are explored. Despite the development of deeper, more heavily precipitating cumuli, the reduction of the widespread moderately precipitating stratocumulus clouds leads to an overall reduction in domainwide accumulated precipitation when aerosol concentrations are enhanced.

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