Articles | Volume 11, issue 10
Research article
17 May 2011
Research article |  | 17 May 2011

Vertical profiles of droplet effective radius in shallow convective clouds

S. Zhang, H. Xue, and G. Feingold

Abstract. Conventional satellite retrievals can only provide information on cloud-top droplet effective radius (re). Given the fact that cloud ensembles in a satellite snapshot have different cloud-top heights, Rosenfeld and Lensky (1998) used the cloud-top height and the corresponding cloud-top re from the cloud ensembles in the snapshot to construct a profile of re representative of that in the individual clouds. This study investigates the robustness of this approach in shallow convective clouds based on results from large-eddy simulations (LES) for clean (aerosol mixing ratio Na = 25 mg−1), intermediate (Na = 100 mg−1), and polluted (Na = 2000 mg−1) conditions. The cloud-top height and the cloud-top re from the modeled cloud ensembles are used to form a constructed re profile, which is then compared to the in-cloud re profiles. For the polluted and intermediate cases where precipitation is negligible, the constructed re profiles represent the in-cloud re profiles fairly well with a low bias (about 10 %). The method used in Rosenfeld and Lensky (1998) is therefore validated for nonprecipitating shallow cumulus clouds. For the clean, drizzling case, the in-cloud re can be very large and highly variable, and quantitative profiling based on cloud-top re is less useful. The differences in re profiles between clean and polluted conditions derived in this manner are however, distinct. This study also investigates the subadiabatic characteristics of the simulated cumulus clouds to reveal the effect of mixing on re and its evolution. Results indicate that as polluted and moderately polluted clouds develop into their decaying stage, the subadiabatic fraction fad becomes smaller, representing a higher degree of mixing, and re becomes smaller (~10 %) and more variable. However, for the clean case, smaller fad corresponds to larger re (and larger re variability), reflecting the additional influence of droplet collision-coalescence and sedimentation on re. Finally, profiles of the vertically inhomogeneous clouds as simulated by the LES and those of the vertically homogeneous clouds are used as input to a radiative transfer model to study the effect of cloud vertical inhomogeneity on shortwave radiative forcing. For clouds that have the same liquid water path, re of a vertically homogeneous cloud must be about 76–90 % of the cloud-top re of the vertically inhomogeneous cloud in order for the two clouds to have the same shortwave radiative forcing.

Final-revised paper