Articles | Volume 12, issue 2
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 1101–1119, 2012
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 1101–1119, 2012

Research article 26 Jan 2012

Research article | 26 Jan 2012

Statistical analysis of an LES shallow cumulus cloud ensemble using a cloud tracking algorithm

J. T. Dawe and P. H. Austin J. T. Dawe and P. H. Austin
  • Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia, 6339 Stores Road, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada

Abstract. A technique for the tracking of individual clouds in a Large Eddy Simulation (LES) is presented. We use this technique on an LES of a shallow cumulus cloud field based upon the Barbados Oceanographic and Meteorological Experiment (BOMEX) to calculate statistics of cloud height, lifetime, and other physical properties for individual clouds in the model. We also examine the question of nature versus nurture in shallow cumulus clouds: do properties at cloud base determine the upper-level properties of the clouds (nature), or are cloud properties determined by the environmental conditions they encounter (nurture). We find that clouds which ascend through an environment that has been pre-moistened by previous cloud activity are no more likely to reach the inversion than clouds that ascend through a drier environment. Cloud base thermodynamic properties are uncorrelated with upper-level cloud properties, while mean fractional entrainment and detrainment rates display moderate correlations with cloud properties up to the inversion. Conversely, cloud base area correlates well with upper-level cloud area and maximum cloud height. We conclude that cloud thermodynamic properties are primarily influenced by entrainment and detrainment processes, cloud area and height are primarily influenced by cloud base area, and thus nature and nurture both play roles in the dynamics of BOMEX shallow cumulus clouds.

Final-revised paper