Articles | Volume 15, issue 18
Research article
21 Sep 2015
Research article |  | 21 Sep 2015

Comprehensive mapping and characteristic regimes of aerosol effects on the formation and evolution of pyro-convective clouds

D. Chang, Y. Cheng, P. Reutter, J. Trentmann, S. M. Burrows, P. Spichtinger, S. Nordmann, M. O. Andreae, U. Pöschl, and H. Su

Abstract. A recent parcel model study (Reutter et al., 2009) showed three deterministic regimes of initial cloud droplet formation, characterized by different ratios of aerosol concentrations (NCN) to updraft velocities. This analysis, however, did not reveal how these regimes evolve during the subsequent cloud development. To address this issue, we employed the Active Tracer High Resolution Atmospheric Model (ATHAM) with full microphysics and extended the model simulation from the cloud base to the entire column of a single pyro-convective mixed-phase cloud. A series of 2-D simulations (over 1000) were performed over a wide range of NCN and dynamic conditions. The integrated concentration of hydrometeors over the full spatial and temporal scales was used to evaluate the aerosol and dynamic effects. The results show the following. (1) The three regimes for cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activation in the parcel model (namely aerosol-limited, updraft-limited, and transitional regimes) still exist within our simulations, but net production of raindrops and frozen particles occurs mostly within the updraft-limited regime. (2) Generally, elevated aerosols enhance the formation of cloud droplets and frozen particles. The response of raindrops and precipitation to aerosols is more complex and can be either positive or negative as a function of aerosol concentrations. The most negative effect was found for values of NCN of ~ 1000 to 3000 cm−3. (3) The nonlinear properties of aerosol–cloud interactions challenge the conclusions drawn from limited case studies in terms of their representativeness, and ensemble studies over a wide range of aerosol concentrations and other influencing factors are strongly recommended for a more robust assessment of the aerosol effects.

Final-revised paper