UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Constraints on droplet growth in radiatively cooled stratocumulus clouds Austin, Philip H.; Siems, Steven T.; Wang, Yinong


Radiative cooling near the top of a layer cloud plays a dominant role in droplet condensation growth. The impact of this cooling on the evolution of small droplets and the formation of precipitation-sized drops is calculated using a microphysical model that includes radiatively driven condensation and coalescence. The cloud top radiative environment used for these calculations is determined using a mixed-layer model of a marine stratocumulus cloud with a subsiding, radiatively cooled inversion. Calculations of the radiatively driven equilibrium supersaturation show that net long wave emission by cloud droplets produces supersaturations below 0.04% for typical nocturnal conditions. While supersaturations as low as this will force evaporation for droplets smaller than ≈ 5 μm, radiatively enhanced growth for larger droplets can reduce the time required to produce precipitation-sized particles by a factor of 2–4, compared with droplets in a quiescent cloud without flux divergence. The impact of this radiative enhancement on the acceleration of coalescence is equivalent to that produced in updrafts of 0.1–0.5 ms−1, and varies linearly with the total emitted flux (the “radiative exchange”). An edited version of this paper was published by AGU. Copyright 1995 American Geophysical Union.

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