Articles | Volume 17, issue 6
Research article
29 Mar 2017
Research article |  | 29 Mar 2017

Microphysical sensitivity of coupled springtime Arctic stratocumulus to modelled primary ice over the ice pack, marginal ice, and ocean

Gillian Young, Paul J. Connolly, Hazel M. Jones, and Thomas W. Choularton

Abstract. This study uses large eddy simulations to test the sensitivity of single-layer mixed-phase stratocumulus to primary ice number concentrations in the European Arctic. Observations from the Aerosol-Cloud Coupling and Climate Interactions in the Arctic (ACCACIA) campaign are considered for comparison with cloud microphysics modelled using the Large Eddy Model (LEM, UK Met. Office). We find that cloud structure is very sensitive to ice number concentrations, Nice, and small increases can cause persisting mixed-phase clouds to glaciate and break up.

Three key dependencies on Nice are identified from sensitivity simulations and comparisons with observations made over the sea ice pack, marginal ice zone (MIZ), and ocean. Over sea ice, we find deposition–condensation ice formation rates are overestimated, leading to cloud glaciation. When ice formation is limited to water-saturated conditions, we find microphysics comparable to aircraft observations over all surfaces considered. We show that warm supercooled (−13 °C) mixed-phase clouds over the MIZ are simulated to reasonable accuracy when using both the DeMott et al.(2010) and Cooper(1986) primary ice nucleation parameterisations. Over the ocean, we find a strong sensitivity of Arctic stratus to Nice. The Cooper(1986) parameterisation performs poorly at the lower ambient temperatures, leading to a comparatively higher Nice (2.43 L−1 at the cloud-top temperature, approximately −20 °C) and cloud glaciation. A small decrease in the predicted Nice (2.07 L−1 at −20 °C), using the DeMott et al.(2010) parameterisation, causes mixed-phase conditions to persist for 24 h over the ocean. However, this representation leads to the formation of convective structures which reduce the cloud liquid water through snow precipitation, promoting cloud break-up through a depleted liquid phase. Decreasing the Nice further (0.54 L−1, using a relationship derived from ACCACIA observations) allows mixed-phase conditions to be maintained for at least 24 h with more stability in the liquid and ice water paths. Sensitivity to Nice is also evident at low number concentrations, where 0.1  ×  Nice predicted by the DeMott et al.(2010) parameterisation results in the formation of rainbands within the model; rainbands which also act to deplete the liquid water in the cloud and promote break-up.

Short summary
Arctic mixed-phase clouds are poorly represented in numerical models, due in part to an overpredicted ice phase. Here, we examine the sensitivity of cloud structure, evolution, and lifetime to modelled primary ice number concentrations over three different surfaces – sea ice, marginal ice, and ocean – to investigate the dependency on both the ice phase and dynamics induced from surface fluxes.
Final-revised paper