Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2021-481
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2021-481

  26 Jul 2021

26 Jul 2021

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Importance of aerosols and shape of the cloud droplet size distribution for convective clouds and precipitation

Christian Barthlott1, Amirmahdi Zarboo1, Takumi Matsunobu2, and Christian Keil2 Christian Barthlott et al.
  • 1Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-TRO), Department Troposphere Research, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 2Meteorologisches Institut, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany

Abstract. The predictability of deep moist convection is subject to large uncertainties resulting from inaccurate initial and boundary data, the incomplete description of physical processes, or microphysical uncertainties. In this study, we investigate the response of convective clouds and precipitation over central Europe to varying cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) concentrations and different shape parameters of the cloud droplet size distribution (CDSD), both of which are not well constrained by observations. We systematically evaluate the relative impact of these uncertainties in realistic convection-resolving simulations for multiple cases with different synoptic controls using the new icosahedral nonhydrostatic ICON model. The results show a large systematic increase in total cloud water content with increasing CCN concentrations and narrower CDSDs together with a reduction in the total rain water content. This is related to a suppressed warm-rain formation due to a less efficient collision-coalescence process. It is shown that the evaporation at lower levels is responsible for diminishing these impacts on surface precipitation, which lies between +13 % to −16 % compared to a reference run with continental aerosol assumption. In general, the precipitation response was larger for weakly-forced cases. We also find that the overall timing of convection is not sensitive to the microphysical uncertainties applied, indicating that different rain intensities are responsible for changing precipitation totals at the ground. Furthermore, weaker rain intensities in the developing phase of convective clouds can allow for a higher convective instability at later times, which can lead to a turning point with larger rain intensities later on. The existence of such a turning point and its location in time can have a major impact on precipitation totals. In general, we find that an increase in the shape parameter can produce almost as large a variation in precipitation as a CCN increase from maritime to polluted conditions. Narrowing of the CDSD not only decreases the absolute values of autoconversion and accretion, but also decreases the relative role of the warm-rain formation in general, independent of the prevailing weather regime.

We further find that increasing CCN concentrations reduces the effective radius of cloud droplets stronger than larger shape parameters. The cloud optical depth, however, reveals a similar large increase with larger shape parameters as changing the aerosol load from maritime to polluted. By the frequency of updrafts as a function of height, we show a negative aerosol effect on updraft strength, indicating that the larger water load above the freezing level in polluted conditions does not lead to an invigoration of deep convection. These findings demonstrate that both, CCN assumptions and the CDSD shape parameter, are important for quantitative precipitation forecasting and should be carefully chosen if double-moment schemes are used for modeling aerosol-cloud interactions.

Christian Barthlott et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2021-481', Anonymous Referee #1, 13 Aug 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2021-481', Anonymous Referee #2, 17 Aug 2021

Christian Barthlott et al.

Christian Barthlott et al.

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Short summary
The relative impact of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) concentrations and shape parameter of the cloud droplet size distribution is evaluated in realistic convection-resolving simulations. We find that an increase in the shape parameter can produce almost as large a variation in precipitation as a CCN increase from maritime to polluted conditions. The choice of the shape parameter may be more important than previously thought for determining cloud radiative characteristics.
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