Convective cells in altocumulus observed with a high-resolution radar

TitleConvective cells in altocumulus observed with a high-resolution radar
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsSchmidt J.M, Flatau P.J, Yates R.D
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Date Published2014/06
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0022-4928
Accession NumberWOS:000336882900014
Keywordsboundary-layer; cirrus clouds; Clouds; doppler radar; drizzle parameters; effective radius; ice water-content; liquid; microwave radiometer; mixed-phase clouds; stratocumulus

Very-high-resolution Doppler radar observations are used together with aircraft measurements to document the dynamic and thermodynamic structure of a dissipating altocumulus cloud system associated with a deep virga layer. The cloud layer circulation is shown to consist of shallow vertical velocity couplets near cloud top and a series of subkilometer-scale Rayleigh-Benard-like cells that extend vertically through the depth of the cloud layer. The subcloud layer was observed to contain a number of narrow virga fall streaks that developed below the more dominant Rayleigh-Benard updraft circulations in the cloud layer. These features were discovered to be associated with kilometer-scale horizontally orientated rotor circulations that formed along the lateral flanks of the streaks collocated downdraft circulation. The Doppler analysis further reveals that a layer mean descent was present throughout both the cloud and subcloud layers. This characteristic of the circulation is analyzed with regard to the diabatic and radiative forcing on horizontal length scales ranging from the Rayleigh-Benard circulations to the overall cloud layer width. In particular, linear analytical results indicate that a deep and broad mesoscale region of subsidence is quickly established in middle-level cloud layers of finite width when a layer-wide horizontal gradient in the cloud-top radiative cooling rate is present. A conceptual model summarizing the primary observed and inferred circulation features of the altocumulus layer is presented.

Student Publication: