Articles | Volume 11, issue 7
Research article
15 Apr 2011
Research article |  | 15 Apr 2011

The response of precipitation to aerosol through riming and melting in deep convective clouds

Z. Cui, S. Davies, K. S. Carslaw, and A. M. Blyth

Abstract. We have used a 2-D axisymmetric, non-hydrostatic, bin-resolved cloud model to examine the impact of aerosol changes on the development of mixed-phase convective clouds. We have simulated convective clouds from four different sites (three continental and one tropical marine) with a wide range of realistic aerosol loadings and initial thermodynamic conditions (a total of 93 different clouds). It is found that the accumulated precipitation responds very differently to changing aerosol in the marine and continental environments. For the continental clouds, the scaled total precipitation reaches a maximum for aerosol that produce drop numbers at cloud base between 180–430 cm−3 when other conditions are the same. In contrast, all the tropical marine clouds show an increase in accumulated precipitation and deeper convection with increasing aerosol loading. For continental clouds, drops are rapidly depleted by ice particles shortly after the onset of precipitation. The precipitation is dominantly produced by melting ice particles. The riming rate increases with aerosol when the loading is very low, and decreases when the loading is high. Peak precipitation intensities tend to increase with aerosol up to drop concentrations (at cloud base) of ~500 cm−3 then decrease with further aerosol increases. This behaviour is caused by the initial transition from warm to mixed-phase rain followed by reduced efficiency of mixed-phase rain at very high drop concentrations. The response of tropical marine clouds to increasing aerosol is different to, and larger than, that of continental clouds. In the more humid tropical marine environment with low cloud bases we find that accumulated precipitation increases with increasing aerosol. The increase is driven by the transition from warm to mixed-phase rain. Our study suggests that the response of deep convective clouds to aerosol will be an important contribution to the spatial and temporal variability in cloud microphysics and precipitation.

Final-revised paper