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Observational Evidence that Radiative Heating Modifies the Life Cycle of Tropical Anvil Clouds

Abstract : A variety of satellite and ground-based observations are used to study how diurnal variations of cloud radiative heating affect the life cycle of anvil clouds over the tropical western Pacific Ocean. High clouds thicker than 2 km experience longwave heating at cloud base, longwave cooling at cloud top, and shortwave heating at cloud top. The shortwave and longwave effects have similar magnitudes during midday, but only the longwave effect is present at night, so high clouds experience a substantial diurnal cycle of radiative heating. Furthermore, anvil clouds are more persistent or laterally expansive during daytime. This cannot be explained by variations of convective intensity or geographic patterns of convection, suggesting that shortwave heating causes anvil clouds to persist longer or spread over a larger area. It is then investigated if shortwave heating modifies anvil development by altering turbulence in the cloud. According to one theory, radiative heating drives turbulent overturning within anvil clouds that can be sufficiently vigorous to cause ice nucleation in the updrafts, thereby extending the cloud lifetime. High-frequency air motion and ice-crystal number concentration are shown to be inversely related near cloud top, however. This suggests that turbulence depletes or disperses ice crystals at a faster rate than it nucleates them, so another mechanism must cause the diurnal variation of anvil clouds. It is hypothesized that radiative heating affects anvil development primarily by inducing a mesoscale circulation that offsets gravitational settling of cloud particles.
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Submitted on : Friday, June 3, 2022 - 7:06:39 AM
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Casey J. Wall, Joel R. Norris, Blaž Gasparini, William L. Smith Jr., Mandana M. Thieman, et al.. Observational Evidence that Radiative Heating Modifies the Life Cycle of Tropical Anvil Clouds. Journal of Climate, 2020, 33, pp.8621-8640. ⟨10.1175/JCLI-D-20-0204.1⟩. ⟨insu-03686294⟩

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