07 Sep 2020

07 Sep 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal ACP and is expected to appear here in due course.

Is a more physical representation of aerosol activation needed for simulations of fog?

Craig Poku1, Andrew N. Ross1, Adrian A. Hill2, Alan M. Blyth1,3, and Ben Shipway2 Craig Poku et al.
  • 1School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, UK
  • 2Met Office, Exeter, UK
  • 3National Centre of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Leeds, UK

Abstract. Aerosols play a crucial role in the fog life cycle, as they determine the droplet number concentration, and hence droplet size, which in turn controls both the fog's optical thickness and life span. Detailed aerosol-microphysics schemes which accurately represent droplet formation and growth are unsuitable for weather forecasting and climate models, as the computational power required to calculate droplet formation would dominate the treatment of the rest of the physics in the model. A simple method to account for droplet formation is the use of an aerosol activation scheme, which parameterises the droplet number concentration based on a change in supersaturation at a given time. Traditionally, aerosol activation parameterisation schemes were designed for convective clouds and assume that supersaturation is reached through adiabatic lifting, with many imposing a minimum vertical velocity (e.g. 0.1 m/s) to account for unresolved sub-grid ascent. In radiation fog, the measured updrafts during initial formation are often insignificant, with radiative cooling being the dominant process leading to saturation. As a result, there is a risk that many aerosol activation schemes will overpredict the initial fog number concentration, which in turn may result in the fog transitioning to an optically thick layer too rapidly.

This paper presents a more physically-based aerosol activation scheme that can account for a change in saturation due to non-adiabatic processes. Using an offline model, our results show that the minimum updraft velocity threshold assumption can overpredict the droplet number by up to 70 % in comparison to a cooling rate found in fog formation. The new scheme has been implemented in the Met Office Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Cloud (MONC) LES model, and tested using observations of a radiation fog case study based in Cardington, UK. The results in this work show that using a more physically-based method of aerosol activation leads to the calculation of a more appropriate cloud droplet number. As a result, there is a slower transition to an optically thick (well-mixed) fog that is more in-line with observations.

The results shown in this paper demonstrate the importance of aerosol activation representation in fog modelling, and the impact that the cloud droplet number has on processes linked to the formation and development of radiation fog. Unlike the previous parameterisation for aerosol activation, the revised scheme is suitable to simulate aerosol activation in both fog and convective cloud regimes.

Craig Poku et al.

Status: closed
Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
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Status: closed
Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Printer-friendly Version - Printer-friendly version Supplement - Supplement

Craig Poku et al.

Craig Poku et al.


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Short summary
We present a new aerosol activation scheme that is suitable for modelling both fog and convective clouds. Most current activation schemes are designed for convective cloud and we demonstrate that using them to model fog can negatively impact its lifecycle. Our scheme has been used to model an observed fog case in the UK, where we demonstrate that a more physically based representation of aerosol activation is required to capture the transition to a deeper layer; more inline with observations.