The three-dimensional structure and kinematics of drizzling stratocumulus

Abstract

Drizzling marine stratocumulus are examined using observations from the 2001 East Pacific Investigation of Climate Stratocumulus (EPIC Sc) field experiment. This study uses a unique combination of satellite and shipborne Doppler radar data including both horizontal and vertical crosssections through drizzle cells. Stratocumulus cloud structure was classified as closed-cellular, open cellular or unclassifiable using infrared satellite images. Distributions of drizzle cell structure, size and intensity are similar among the cloud-structure categories, though the open-cellular distributions are shifted toward higher values. Stronger and larger drizzle cells preferentially occur when the cloud field is broken (open cellular and unclassifiable categories). Satellite observations of cloud structure may be useful to indicate the most likely distribution of rain rates associated with a set of scenes, but infrared data alone are not sufficient to develop routine precipitation retrievals for marine stratocumulus. Individual drizzle cells about 2-20 km across usually showed precipitation growth within the cloud layer and evaporation below, divergence near echo top and convergence below cloud base. Diverging flow near the surface was also observed beneath heavily precipitating drizzle cells. As the cloud field transitioned from closed to open-cellular cloud structure, shipborne radar revealed prolific development of small drizzle cells (< 10 km) that exceeded by over five times the number of total cells in either the preceding closed-cellular or following open-cellular periods. Peak area-average rain rates lagged by a few hours the peak in total number of drizzle cells. Based on observations from EPIC Sc, the highest stratocumulus rain rates are more likely to occur near the boundary between closed and open-cellular cloud structures.

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Comstock2007TheTS, title={The three-dimensional structure and kinematics of drizzling stratocumulus}, author={Kimberly K. Comstock and Sandra E. Yuter and R. Glenn Wood and Christopher S . Bretherton}, year={2007} }