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https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2020-1160
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2020-1160
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  17 Nov 2020

17 Nov 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Shallow Cumulus Cloud Feedback in Large Eddy Simulations – Bridging the Gap to Storm Resolving Models

Jule Radtke1,2, Thorsten Mauritsen3, and Cathy Hohenegger4 Jule Radtke et al.
  • 1Meteorological Institute, Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN), Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  • 2International Max Planck Research School on Earth System Modelling, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
  • 3Department of Meteorology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 4Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany

Abstract. The response of shallow trade cumulus clouds to global warming is a leading source of uncertainty to interpretations and projections of the Earth's changing climate. A setup based on the Rain In Cumulus over the Ocean field campaign is used to simulate a shallow trade wind cumulus field with the Icosahedral Non-hydrostatic Large Eddy Model in a control and a perturbed 4 K warmed climate, while degrading horizontal resolution from 100 m to 5 km. As the resolution is coarsened the basic state cloud fraction increases substantially, especially at cloud base, lateral mixing is weaker and cloud tops reach higher. Nevertheless, the overall vertical structure of the cloud layer is surprisingly robust across resolutions. In a warmer climate, cloud cover reduces, alone constituting a positive shortwave cloud feedback: the strength correlates with the amount of basic state cloud fraction, thus is stronger at coarser resolutions. Cloud thickening, resulting from more water vapor availability for condensation in a warmer climate, acts as a compensating feedback, but unlike the cloud cover reduction it is largely resolution independent. Therefore, refining the resolution leads to convergence to a near-zero shallow cumulus feedback. This dependence holds in experiments with enhanced realism including precipitation processes or warming along a moist adiabat instead of uniform warming. Insofar as these findings carry over to other models, they suggest that storm resolving models may exaggerate the trade wind cumulus cloud feedback.

Jule Radtke et al.

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Jule Radtke et al.

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Latest update: 24 Nov 2020
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Short summary
Shallow trade wind clouds are a key source of uncertainty to projections of the Earth's changing climate. We perform high resolution simulations of trade cumulus and investigate how the representation and climate feedback of these clouds depends on the specific grid spacing. We find that the cloud feedback is positive when simulated with kilometer but near zero when simulated with hectometer grid spacing. These findings suggest that storm resolving models may exaggerate the trade cloud feedback.
Shallow trade wind clouds are a key source of uncertainty to projections of the Earth's changing...
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