Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
The stratocumulus to cumulus transition (SCT) is typically considered to be a slow, multiday process, caused primarily by dry air entrainment associated with overshooting cumulus, with minor influence of drizzle. This study revisits the role of drizzle in the SCT with large eddy simulations coupled with a two‐moment bulk microphysics scheme that includes a budget on aerosol (Na) and cloud droplet number concentrations (Nc). We show a strong precipitation‐induced modulation of the SCT by drizzle initiated in penetrative cumulus under stratocumulus. Lagrangian SCT simulations are initiated with various, moderate Na (100–250 cm−3), which produce little to no drizzle from the stratocumulus. As expected, drizzle formation in cumuli is regulated by cloud depth and Nc, with stronger dependence on cloud depth, so that, for the current case, drizzle is generated in all simulations once cumulus clouds become sufficiently deep. The drizzle generated in the cumuli washes out stratocumulus cloud water and much of the aerosol, and a cumulus state appears for approximately 10 h. With additional simulations with a fixed Nc (100 cm−3), we show that prediction of Nc is necessary for this fast SCT since it is a result of a positive feedback of collision‐coalescence‐induced aerosol depletion that enhances drizzle formation. A fixed Nc does not permit this feedback, and thus results in weak influence of drizzle on the SCT. Simulations with fixed droplet concentrations that bracket the time varying aerosol/drop concentrations are therefore not representative of the role of drizzle in the SCT.
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