AbstractThe distribution of cloud-base mass flux is studied using large-eddy simulations (LESs) of two reference cases: one representing conditions over the tropical ocean and another one representing midlatitude conditions over land. To examine what sets the difference between the two distributions, nine additional LES cases are set up as variations of the two reference cases. It is found that the total surface heat flux and its changes over the diurnal cycle do not influence the distribution shape. The latter is also not determined by the level of organization in the cloud field. It is instead determined by the ratio of the surface sensible heat flux to the latent heat flux, that is, the Bowen ratio B. This ratio sets the thermodynamic efficiency of the moist convective heat cycle, which determines the portion of the total surface heat flux that can be transformed into mechanical work of convection against mechanical dissipation. The thermodynamic moist heat cycle sets the average mass flux per cloud 〈m〉, and through 〈m〉 it also controls the shape of the distribution. An expression for 〈m〉 is derived based on the moist convective heat cycle and is evaluated against LES. This expression can be used in shallow cumulus parameterizations as a physical constraint on the mass flux distribution. The similarity between the mass flux and the cloud area distributions indicates that B also has a role in shaping the cloud area distribution, which could explain its different shapes and slopes observed in previous studies.
Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences – American Meteorological Society
Published: Aug 14, 2017
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