Articles | Volume 17, issue 8
Research article
28 Apr 2017
Research article |  | 28 Apr 2017

Effects of 3-D thermal radiation on the development of a shallow cumulus cloud field

Carolin Klinger, Bernhard Mayer, Fabian Jakub, Tobias Zinner, Seung-Bu Park, and Pierre Gentine

Abstract. We investigate the effects of thermal radiation on cloud development in large-eddy simulations (LESs) with the UCLA-LES model. We investigate single convective clouds (driven by a warm bubble) at 50 m horizontal resolution and a large cumulus cloud field at 50 and 100 m horizontal resolutions. We compare the newly developed 3-D Neighboring Column Approximation with the independent column approximation and a simulation without radiation and their respective impact on clouds. Thermal radiation causes strong local cooling at cloud tops accompanied by a modest warming at the cloud bottom and, in the case of the 3-D scheme, also cloud side cooling. 3-D thermal radiation causes systematically larger cooling when averaged over the model domain. In order to investigate the effects of local cooling on the clouds and to separate these local effects from a systematically larger cooling effect in the modeling domain, we apply the radiative transfer solutions in different ways. The direct effect of heating and cooling at the clouds is applied (local thermal radiation) in a first simulation. Furthermore, a horizontal average of the 1-D and 3-D radiation in each layer is used to study the effect of local cloud radiation as opposed to the domain-averaged effect. These averaged radiation simulations exhibit a cooling profile with stronger cooling in the cloudy layers. In a final setup, we replace the radiation simulation by a uniform cooling of 2.6 K day−1. To focus on the radiation effects themselves and to avoid possible feedbacks, we fixed surface fluxes of latent and sensible heat and omitted the formation of rain in our simulations.

Local thermal radiation changes cloud circulation in the single cloud simulations, as well as in the shallow cumulus cloud field, by causing stronger updrafts and stronger subsiding shells. In our cumulus cloud field simulation, we find that local radiation enhances the circulation compared to the averaged radiation applications. In addition, we find that thermal radiation triggers the organization of clouds in two different ways. First, local interactive radiation leads to the formation of cell structures; later on, larger clouds develop. Comparing the effects of 3-D and 1-D thermal radiation, we find that organization effects of 3-D local thermal radiation are usually stronger than the 1-D counterpart. Horizontally averaged radiation causes more clouds and deeper clouds than a no radiation simulation but, in general less-organized clouds than in the local radiation simulations. Applying a constant cooling to the simulations leads to a similar development of the cloud field as in the case of averaged radiation, but less water condenses overall in the simulation. Generally, clouds contain more liquid water if radiation is accounted for. Furthermore, thermal radiation enhances turbulence and mixing as well as the size and lifetime of clouds. Local thermal radiation produces larger clouds with longer lifetimes.

The cloud fields in the 100 and 50 m resolution simulations develop similarly; however, 3-D local effects are stronger in the 100 m simulations which might indicate a limit of our 3-D radiation parameterization.

Short summary
Radiation is driving weather and climate. Yet, the effect of radiation on clouds is not fully understood and often only poorly represented in models. Better understanding and better parameterizations of the radiation–cloud interaction are therefore essential. Using our newly developed fast neighboring column approximation for 3-D thermal heating and cooling rates, we show that thermal radiation changes cloud circulation and causes organization and a deepening of the clouds.
Final-revised paper