Articles | Volume 16, issue 15
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 9711–9725, 2016
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 9711–9725, 2016

Research article 02 Aug 2016

Research article | 02 Aug 2016

Physics of Stratocumulus Top (POST): turbulence characteristics

Imai Jen-La Plante1, Yongfeng Ma1, Katarzyna Nurowska1, Hermann Gerber2, Djamal Khelif3, Katarzyna Karpinska1, Marta K. Kopec1, Wojciech Kumala1, and Szymon P. Malinowski1 Imai Jen-La Plante et al.
  • 1Institute of Geophysics, Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
  • 2Gerber Scientific Inc., Reston, VA, USA
  • 3Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA

Abstract. Turbulence observed during the Physics of Stratocumulus Top (POST) research campaign is analyzed. Using in-flight measurements of dynamic and thermodynamic variables at the interface between the stratocumulus cloud top and free troposphere, the cloud top region is classified into sublayers, and the thicknesses of these sublayers are estimated. The data are used to calculate turbulence characteristics, including the bulk Richardson number, mean-square velocity fluctuations, turbulence kinetic energy (TKE), TKE dissipation rate, and Corrsin, Ozmidov and Kolmogorov scales. A comparison of these properties among different sublayers indicates that the entrainment interfacial layer consists of two significantly different sublayers: the turbulent inversion sublayer (TISL) and the moist, yet hydrostatically stable, cloud top mixing sublayer (CTMSL). Both sublayers are marginally turbulent, i.e., the bulk Richardson number across the layers is critical. This means that turbulence is produced by shear and damped by buoyancy such that the sublayer thicknesses adapt to temperature and wind variations across them. Turbulence in both sublayers is anisotropic, with Corrsin and Ozmidov scales as small as  ∼  0.3 and  ∼  3 m in the TISL and CTMSL, respectively. These values are  ∼  60 and  ∼  15 times smaller than typical layer depths, indicating flattened large eddies and suggesting no direct mixing of cloud top and free-tropospheric air. Also, small scales of turbulence are different in sublayers as indicated by the corresponding values of Kolmogorov scales and buoyant and shear Reynolds numbers.

Short summary
Using airborne data from of Physics of Stratocumulus Top campaign we analysed turbulence at the interface between free troposphere and cloud top. We found turbulence in temperature inversion capping cloud as well as in adjacent cloud top layer very anisotropic. Eddies are elongated horizontally by wind shear and flattened by static stability. These properties of turbulence at the cloud top were overlooked so far, which explains problems with understanding of entrainment at stratocumulus top.
Final-revised paper