Modeling condensation in shallow nonprecipitating convection

Grabowski W.W., Jarecka D.

Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences

72 (12), 2015, 4661-4679, 10.1175/JAS-D-15-0091.1

Two schemes for modeling condensation in warm nonprecipitating clouds are compared. The first one is the efficient bulk condensation scheme where cloudy volumes are always at saturation and cloud water evaporates instantaneously to maintain saturation. The second one is the comprehensive bin condensation scheme that predicts the evolution of the cloud droplet spectrum and allows sub- and supersaturations in cloudy volumes. The emphasis is on the impact of the two schemes on cloud dynamics. Theoretical considerations show that the bulk condensation scheme provides more buoyancy than the bin scheme, but the effect is small, with the potential density temperature difference around 0.1 K for 1% supersaturation. The 1D advection–condensation tests document the high-vertical-resolution requirement for the bin scheme to resolve the cloud-base supersaturation maximum and CCN activation, which is difficult to employ in 3D cloud simulations. Simulations of shallow convection cloud fields are executed applying bulk and bin schemes, with the mean droplet concentrations in the bin scheme covering a wide range, from about 5 to over 4000 cm−3. Simulations employ the microphysical piggybacking methodology to extract impacts with high confidence. They show that the differences in cloud fields simulated with bulk and bin schemes come not from small differences in the condensation but from more significant differences in the evaporation of cloud water near cloud edges as a result of entrainment and mixing with the environment. The latter makes the impact of cloud microphysics on simulated macroscopic cloud field properties even more difficult to assess because of highly uncertain subgrid-scale parameterizations.