Articles | Volume 15, issue 13
Research article
09 Jul 2015
Research article |  | 09 Jul 2015

Sensitivities of Lagrangian modelling of mid-latitude cirrus clouds to trajectory data quality

E. Kienast-Sjögren, A. K. Miltenberger, B. P. Luo, and T. Peter

Abstract. Simulations of cirrus are subject to uncertainties in model physics and meteorological input data. Here we model cirrus clouds along air mass trajectories, whose extinction has been measured with an elastic backscatter lidar at Jungfraujoch research station in the Swiss Alps, with a microphysical stacked box model. The sensitivities of these simulations to input data uncertainties (trajectory resolution, unresolved vertical velocities, ice nuclei number density and upstream specific humidity) are investigated.

Variations in the temporal resolution of the wind field data (COSMO-Model at 2.2 km resolution) between 20 s and 1 h have only a marginal impact on the trajectory path, while the representation of the vertical velocity variability and therefore the cooling rate distribution are significantly affected. A temporal resolution better than 5 min must be chosen in order to resolve cooling rates required to explain the measured extinction. A further increase in the temporal resolution improves the simulation results slightly. The close match between the modelled and observed extinction profile for high-resolution trajectories suggests that the cooling rate spectra calculated by the COSMO-2 model suffice on the selected day. The modelled cooling rate spectra are, however, characterized by significantly lower vertical velocity amplitudes than those found previously in some aircraft campaigns (SUCCESS, MACPEX). A climatological analysis of the vertical velocity amplitude in the Alpine region based on COSMO-2 analyses and balloon sounding data suggests large day-to-day variability in small-scale temperature fluctuations. This demonstrates the necessity to apply numerical weather prediction models with high spatial and temporal resolutions in cirrus modelling, whereas using climatological means for the amplitude of the unresolved air motions does generally not suffice.

The box model simulations further suggest that uncertainties in the upstream specific humidity (± 10 % of the model prediction) and in the ice nuclei number density (0–100 L−1) are more important for the modelled cirrus cloud than the unresolved temperature fluctuations if temporally highly resolved trajectories are used. For the presented case the simulations are incompatible with ice nuclei number densities larger than 20 L−1 and insensitive to variations below this value.

Short summary
Sensitivities of Lagrangian cirrus modelling on input data uncertainties have been examined. We found a strong dependence on the temporal resolution of the trajectories and underlying numerical weather prediction (NWP) data as well as on the specific moisture content. Furthermore, we found a large day-to-day variability in the vertical wind spectrum, demonstrating the necessity to apply NWP models with high spatial and temporal resolution for Lagrangian cirrus modelling.
Final-revised paper