Articles | Volume 12, issue 11
Research article
14 Jun 2012
Research article |  | 14 Jun 2012

Strongly sheared stratocumulus convection: an observationally based large-eddy simulation study

S. Wang, X. Zheng, and Q. Jiang

Abstract. Unusually large wind shears across the inversion in the stratocumulus-topped marine boundary layer (MBL) were frequently observed during VOCALS-REx. To investigate the impact of wind shear on the MBL turbulence structure, a large-eddy simulation (LES) model is used to simulate the strongly sheared MBL observed from Twin-Otter RF 18 on 13 November 2008. The LES simulated turbulence statistics agree in general with those derived from the measurements, with the MBL exhibiting a decoupled structure characterized by an enhanced entrainment and a turbulence intensity minimum just below the clouds. Sensitivity simulations show that the shear forcing tends to reduce the dynamic stability of the inversion, characterized by the bulk (or gradient) Richardson number. This decrease enhances the entrainment mixing, leading to reduced cloud water. Consequently, the turbulence intensity in the MBL is significantly weakened by the intense wind shear. The inversion thickens considerably and the MBL top separates from the cloud top, creating a finite cloud-free sublayer of 10–50 m thickness within the inversion, depending on the Richardson number. The weakened inversion tends to enhance the turbulence buoyant consumption and simultaneously lead to a reduced buoyant production in the cloud layer due to less radiative cooling. These effects may result in a decoupling process that creates the different heating/moistening rates between the cloud and subcloud layer, leading to a two-layered structure in the strongly sheared stratocumulus-topped MBL.

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