Articles | Volume 16, issue 14
Research article
19 Jul 2016
Research article |  | 19 Jul 2016

Controls on phase composition and ice water content in a convection-permitting model simulation of a tropical mesoscale convective system

Charmaine N. Franklin, Alain Protat, Delphine Leroy, and Emmanuel Fontaine

Abstract. Simulations of tropical convection from an operational numerical weather prediction model are evaluated with the focus on the model's ability to simulate the observed high ice water contents associated with the outflow of deep convection and to investigate the modelled processes that control the phase composition of tropical convective clouds. The 1 km horizontal grid length model that uses a single-moment microphysics scheme simulates the intensification and decay of convective strength across the mesoscale convective system. However, deep convection is produced too early, the OLR (outgoing longwave radiation) is underestimated and the areas with reflectivities > 30 dBZ are overestimated due to too much rain above the freezing level, stronger updraughts and larger particle sizes in the model. The inclusion of a heterogeneous rain-freezing parameterisation and the use of different ice size distributions show better agreement with the observed reflectivity distributions; however, this simulation still produces a broader profile with many high-reflectivity outliers demonstrating the greater occurrence of convective cells in the simulations. Examining the phase composition shows that the amount of liquid and ice in the modelled convective updraughts is controlled by the following: the size of the ice particles, with larger particles growing more efficiently through riming and producing larger IWC (ice water content); the efficiency of the warm rain process, with greater cloud water contents being available to support larger ice growth rates; and exclusion or limitation of graupel growth, with more mass contained in slower falling snow particles resulting in an increase of in-cloud residence times and more efficient removal of LWC (liquid water content). In this simulated case using a 1 km grid length model, horizontal mass divergence in the mixed-phase regions of convective updraughts is most sensitive to the turbulence formulation. Greater mixing of environmental air into cloudy updraughts in the region of −30 to 0 °C produces more mass divergence indicative of greater entrainment, which generates a larger stratiform rain area. Above these levels in the purely ice region of the simulated updraughts, the convective updraught buoyancy is controlled by the ice particle sizes, demonstrating the importance of the microphysical processes on the convective dynamics in this simulated case study using a single-moment microphysics scheme. The single-moment microphysics scheme in the model is unable to simulate the observed reduction of mean mass-weighted ice diameter as the ice water content increases. The inability of the model to represent the observed variability of the ice size distribution would be improved with the use of a double-moment microphysics scheme.

Short summary
Simulations of tropical convection are used to investigate the processes that control the phase composition of tropical clouds. It is shown that the growth of ice is less dependent on vertical velocity than is liquid water, with the control on ice water content being the ice sizes and available liquid water. Results show that in the purely ice region of convective updraughts, the buoyancy is controlled by the ice sizes, demonstrating the importance of microphysical processes on convective dynamics.
Final-revised paper