Articles | Volume 12, issue 16
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 7689–7705, 2012
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 7689–7705, 2012

Research article 23 Aug 2012

Research article | 23 Aug 2012

On the robustness of aerosol effects on an idealized supercell storm simulated with a cloud system-resolving model

H. Morrison H. Morrison
  • National Center for Atmospheric Research, 3090 Center Green Dr., Boulder, CO 80301, USA

Abstract. A cloud system-resolving model (the Weather Research and Forecasting model) with 1 km horizontal grid spacing is used to investigate the response of an idealized supercell storm to increased cloud droplet concentrations associated with polluted conditions. The primary focus is on exploring robustness of simulated aerosol effects in the face of complex process interactions and feedbacks between the cloud microphysics and dynamics. Simulations are run using sixteen different model configurations with various microphysical or thermodynamic processes modified or turned off. Robustness of the storm response to polluted conditions is also explored for each configuration by performing additional simulations with small perturbations to the initial conditions. Differences in the domain-mean accumulated surface precipitation and convective mass flux between polluted and pristine conditions are small for almost all model configurations, with relative differences in each quantity generally less than 15%. Configurations that produce a decrease (increase) in cold pool strength in polluted conditions also tend to simulate a decrease (increase) in surface precipitation and convective mass flux. Combined with an analysis of the dynamical and thermodynamic fields, these results indicate the importance of interactions between microphysics, cold pool evolution, and dynamics along outflow boundaries in explaining the system response. Several model configurations, including the baseline, produce an overall similar storm response (weakening) in polluted conditions despite having different microphysical or thermodynamic processes turned off. With hail initiation turned off or the hail fallspeed-size relation set to that of snow, the model produces an invigoration instead of weakening of the storm in polluted conditions. These results highlight the difficulty of foreseeing impacts of changes to model parameterizations and isolating process interactions that drive the system response to aerosols. Overall, these findings are robust, in a qualitative sense, to small perturbations in the initial conditions. However, there is sensitivity in the magnitude, and in some cases sign, of the storm response to polluted conditions with small perturbations in the temperature of the thermal used to initiate convection (less than ±0.5 K) or the vertical shear of the environmental wind (±5%). It is concluded that reducing uncertainty in simulations of aerosol effects on individual deep convective storms will likely require ensemble methods in addition to continued improvement of model parameterizations.

Final-revised paper