Wind speed response of marine non-precipitating stratocumulus clouds over a diurnal cycle in cloud-system resolving simulations
Abstract. Observed and projected trends in large-scale wind speed over the oceans prompt the question: how do marine stratocumulus clouds and their radiative properties respond to changes in large-scale wind speed? Wind speed drives the surface fluxes of sensible heat, moisture, and momentum and thereby acts on cloud liquid water path (LWP) and cloud radiative properties. We present an investigation of the dynamical response of non-precipitating, overcast marine stratocumulus clouds to different wind speeds over the course of a diurnal cycle, all else equal. In cloud-system resolving simulations, we find that higher wind speed leads to faster boundary layer growth and stronger entrainment. The dynamical driver is enhanced buoyant production of turbulence kinetic energy (TKE) from latent heat release in cloud updrafts. LWP is enhanced during the night and in the morning at higher wind speed, and more strongly suppressed later in the day. Wind speed hence accentuates the diurnal LWP cycle by expanding the morning–afternoon contrast. The higher LWP at higher wind speed does not, however, enhance cloud top cooling because in clouds with LWP ⪆ 50 g m−2, longwave emissions are insensitive to LWP. This leads to the general conclusion that in sufficiently thick stratocumulus clouds, additional boundary layer growth and entrainment due to a boundary layer moistening arises by stronger production of TKE from latent heat release in cloud updrafts, rather than from enhanced longwave cooling. We find that large-scale wind modulates boundary layer decoupling. At nighttime and at low wind speed during daytime, it enhances decoupling in part by faster boundary layer growth and stronger entrainment and in part because shear from large-scale wind in the sub-cloud layer hinders vertical moisture transport between the surface and cloud base. With increasing wind speed, however, in decoupled daytime conditions, shear-driven circulation due to large-scale wind takes over from buoyancy-driven circulation in transporting moisture from the surface to cloud base and thereby reduces decoupling and helps maintain LWP. The total (shortwave + longwave) cloud radiative effect (CRE) responds to changes in LWP and cloud fraction, and higher wind speed translates to a stronger diurnally averaged total CRE. However, the sensitivity of the diurnally averaged total CRE to wind speed decreases with increasing wind speed.