Articles | Volume 22, issue 1
Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 22, 65–85, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/npg-22-65-2015
Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 22, 65–85, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/npg-22-65-2015

Research article 28 Jan 2015

Research article | 28 Jan 2015

Fluctuations in a quasi-stationary shallow cumulus cloud ensemble

M. Sakradzija1,2, A. Seifert3, and T. Heus1,4 M. Sakradzija et al.
  • 1Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
  • 2International Max Planck Research School on Earth System Modelling (IMPRS-ESM), Hamburg, Germany
  • 3Hans-Ertel Centre for Weather Research, Deutscher Wetterdienst, Hamburg, Germany
  • 4Institute for Geophysics and Meteorology, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany

Abstract. We propose an approach to stochastic parameterisation of shallow cumulus clouds to represent the convective variability and its dependence on the model resolution. To collect information about the individual cloud lifecycles and the cloud ensemble as a whole, we employ a large eddy simulation (LES) model and a cloud tracking algorithm, followed by conditional sampling of clouds at the cloud-base level. In the case of a shallow cumulus ensemble, the cloud-base mass flux distribution is bimodal, due to the different shallow cloud subtypes, active and passive clouds. Each distribution mode can be approximated using a Weibull distribution, which is a generalisation of exponential distribution by accounting for the change in distribution shape due to the diversity of cloud lifecycles. The exponential distribution of cloud mass flux previously suggested for deep convection parameterisation is a special case of the Weibull distribution, which opens a way towards unification of the statistical convective ensemble formalism of shallow and deep cumulus clouds.

Based on the empirical and theoretical findings, a stochastic model has been developed to simulate a shallow convective cloud ensemble. It is formulated as a compound random process, with the number of convective elements drawn from a Poisson distribution, and the cloud mass flux sampled from a mixed Weibull distribution. Convective memory is accounted for through the explicit cloud lifecycles, making the model formulation consistent with the choice of the Weibull cloud mass flux distribution function. The memory of individual shallow clouds is required to capture the correct convective variability. The resulting distribution of the subgrid convective states in the considered shallow cumulus case is scale-adaptive – the smaller the grid size, the broader the distribution.

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