Articles | Volume 18, issue 9
Research article
15 May 2018
Research article |  | 15 May 2018

Quantifying the effect of aerosol on vertical velocity and effective terminal velocity in warm convective clouds

Guy Dagan, Ilan Koren, and Orit Altaratz

Abstract. Better representation of cloud–aerosol interactions is crucial for an improved understanding of natural and anthropogenic effects on climate. Recent studies have shown that the overall aerosol effect on warm convective clouds is non-monotonic. Here, we reduce the system's dimensions to its center of gravity (COG), enabling distillation and simplification of the overall trend and its temporal evolution. Within the COG framework, we show that the aerosol effects are nicely reflected by the interplay of the system's characteristic vertical velocities, namely the updraft (w) and the effective terminal velocity (η). The system's vertical velocities can be regarded as a sensitive measure for the evolution of the overall trends with time. Using a bin-microphysics cloud-scale model, we analyze and follow the trends of the aerosol effect on the magnitude and timing of w and η, and therefore the overall vertical COG velocity. Large eddy simulation (LES) model runs are used to upscale the analyzed trends to the cloud-field scale and study how the aerosol effects on the temporal evolution of the field's thermodynamic properties are reflected by the interplay between the two velocities. Our results suggest that aerosol effects on air vertical motion and droplet mobility imply an effect on the way in which water is distributed along the atmospheric column. Moreover, the interplay between w and η predicts the overall trend of the field's thermodynamic instability. These factors have an important effect on the local energy balance.

Short summary
In this paper we distill the problem of aerosol–cloud interactions to an interplay between the system's two characteristic vertical velocities, i.e., the air vertical velocity and the collective droplets fall velocity. We show using theoretical considerations and cloud-resolving models that the relations between the two velocities are extremely sensitive to the cloud field's thermodynamics and microphysical properties.
Final-revised paper