Articles | Volume 15, issue 10
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 5851–5871, 2015
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 5851–5871, 2015

Research article 27 May 2015

Research article | 27 May 2015

Large eddy simulation of ship tracks in the collapsed marine boundary layer: a case study from the Monterey area ship track experiment

A. H. Berner, C. S. Bretherton, and R. Wood A. H. Berner et al.
  • Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA

Abstract. For the first time, a large eddy simulation (LES) coupled to a bulk aerosol scheme is used to simulate an aircraft-sampled ship track. The track was formed by the M/V Sanko Peace on 13 June 1994 in a shallow drizzling boundary layer with high winds but very low background aerosol concentrations (10 cm−3). A Lagrangian framework is used to simulate the evolution of a short segment of track as it is advected away from the ship for 8 h (a downwind distance exceeding 570 km).

Using aircraft observations for initialization, good agreement is obtained between the simulated and observed features of the ambient boundary layer outside the track, including the organization of the cloud into mesoscale rolls. After 8 h, a line of aerosol is injected to start the ship track. The simulation successfully reproduces the significant albedo enhancement and suppression of drizzle observed within the track. The aerosol concentration within the track dilutes as it broadens due to turbulent mixing. A sensitivity study shows the broadening rate strongly depends on the alignment between the track and the wind-aligned boundary layer rolls, as satellite images of ship tracks suggest. Entrainment is enhanced within the simulated track, but the observed 100 m elevation of the ship track above the surrounding layer is not simulated, possibly because the LES quickly sharpens the rather weak observed inversion. Liquid water path within the simulated track increases with time even as the ambient liquid water path is decreasing. The albedo increase in the track from liquid water and cloud fraction enhancement (second indirect effect) eventually exceeds that from cloud droplet number increases (first indirect or Twomey effect). In a sensitivity study with a higher initial ambient aerosol concentration, stronger ship track aerosol source, and much weaker drizzle, there is less liquid water inside the track than outside for several hours downwind, consistent with satellite estimates for such situations. In that case, the Twomey effect dominates throughout, although, as seen in satellite images, the albedo enhancement of the track is much smaller.

Final-revised paper