Modeling of Cloud Microphysics: Can We Do Better?

Grabowski W.W., Morrison H., Shima S., Abade G.C., Dziekan P., and Pawlowska H.

Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

100(4), 2019, 655-672, 10.1175/BAMS-D-18-0005.1

Representation of cloud microphysics is a key aspect of simulating clouds. From the early days of cloud modeling, numerical models have relied on an Eulerian approach for all cloud and thermodynamic and microphysics variables. Over time the sophistication of microphysics schemes has steadily increased, from simple representations of bulk masses of cloud and rain in each grid cell, to including different ice particle types and bulk hydrometeor concentrations, to complex schemes referred to as bin or spectral schemes that explicitly evolve the hydrometeor size distributions within each model grid cell. As computational resources grow, there is a clear trend toward wider use of bin schemes, including their use as benchmarks to develop and test simplified bulk schemes. We argue that continuing on this path brings fundamental challenges difficult to overcome. The Lagrangian particle-based probabilistic approach is a practical alternative in which the myriad of cloud and precipitation particles present in a natural cloud is represented by a judiciously selected ensemble of point particles called superdroplets or superparticles. The advantages of the Lagrangian particle-based approach when compared to the Eulerian bin methodology are explained, and the prospects of applying the method to more comprehensive cloud simulations—for instance, targeting deep convection or frontal cloud systems—are discussed.