Nocturnal low-level clouds over southern West Africa analysed using high-resolution simulations
Abstract. We performed a high-resolution numerical simulation to study the development of extensive low-level clouds that frequently form over southern West Africa during the monsoon season. This study was made in preparation for a field campaign in 2016 within the Dynamics-aerosol-chemistry-cloud interactions in West Africa (DACCIWA) project and focuses on an area around the city of Savè in southern Benin. Nocturnal low-level clouds evolve a few hundred metres above the ground around the same level as a distinct low-level jet. Several processes are found to determine the spatio-temporal evolution of these clouds including (i) significant cooling of the nocturnal atmosphere caused by horizontal advection with the south-westerly monsoon flow during the first half of the night, (ii) vertical cold air advection due to gravity waves leading to clouds in the wave crests and (iii) enhanced convergence and upward motion upstream of existing clouds that trigger new clouds. The latter is caused by an upward shift of the low-level jet in cloudy areas leading to horizontal convergence in the lower part and to horizontal divergence in the upper part of the cloud layer. Although this single case study hardly allows for a generalisation of the processes found, the results added to the optimisation of the measurements strategy for the field campaign and the observations will be used to test the hypotheses for cloud formation resulting from this study.