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Title: Thermodynamic Constraints on the Size Distributions of Tropical Clouds

Abstract

Tropical convective clouds evolve over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales, which makes them difficult to simulate numerically. Here we propose that cloud statistical properties can be derived within a simplified time-independent coordinate system of cloud number n, saturated static energy h , and cloud perimeter λ. Under the constraint that circulations around cloud edge compete with each other for total buoyant energy and air, we show that the product of cloud number and cloud perimeter nλ is invariant with λ and that cloud number follows a negative exponential with respect to cloud-edge deviations of h ; with respect to the mean. Overall, the summed perimeter of all clouds scales as the square root of the atmospheric static stability. These theoretical results suggest that the complexity of cloud field structures can be viewed statistically as an emergent property of atmospheric bulk thermodynamics. Comparison with a detailed tropical cloud field simulation shows general agreement to within ≤13%. For the sake of developing hypotheses about cloud temporal evolution that are testable in high resolution simulations, the shapes of tropical cloud perimeter distributions are predicted to be invariant as climate warms, although with a modest increase in total cloud amount.

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [1]
  1. Univ. of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
OSTI Identifier:
1539761
Grant/Contract Number:  
SC0016282
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 123; Journal Issue: 16; Journal ID: ISSN 2169-897X
Publisher:
American Geophysical Union
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences

Citation Formats

Garrett, Timothy J., Glenn, Ian B., and Krueger, Steven K. Thermodynamic Constraints on the Size Distributions of Tropical Clouds. United States: N. p., 2018. Web. doi:10.1029/2018jd028803.
Garrett, Timothy J., Glenn, Ian B., & Krueger, Steven K. Thermodynamic Constraints on the Size Distributions of Tropical Clouds. United States. doi:10.1029/2018jd028803.
Garrett, Timothy J., Glenn, Ian B., and Krueger, Steven K. Mon . "Thermodynamic Constraints on the Size Distributions of Tropical Clouds". United States. doi:10.1029/2018jd028803. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1539761.
@article{osti_1539761,
title = {Thermodynamic Constraints on the Size Distributions of Tropical Clouds},
author = {Garrett, Timothy J. and Glenn, Ian B. and Krueger, Steven K.},
abstractNote = {Tropical convective clouds evolve over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales, which makes them difficult to simulate numerically. Here we propose that cloud statistical properties can be derived within a simplified time-independent coordinate system of cloud number n, saturated static energy h★, and cloud perimeter λ. Under the constraint that circulations around cloud edge compete with each other for total buoyant energy and air, we show that the product of cloud number and cloud perimeter nλ is invariant with λ and that cloud number follows a negative exponential with respect to cloud-edge deviations of h★; with respect to the mean. Overall, the summed perimeter of all clouds scales as the square root of the atmospheric static stability. These theoretical results suggest that the complexity of cloud field structures can be viewed statistically as an emergent property of atmospheric bulk thermodynamics. Comparison with a detailed tropical cloud field simulation shows general agreement to within ≤13%. For the sake of developing hypotheses about cloud temporal evolution that are testable in high resolution simulations, the shapes of tropical cloud perimeter distributions are predicted to be invariant as climate warms, although with a modest increase in total cloud amount.},
doi = {10.1029/2018jd028803},
journal = {Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres},
number = 16,
volume = 123,
place = {United States},
year = {2018},
month = {7}
}

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