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David K. Lynch, Kenneth Sassen, David O'C. Starr, and Graeme Stephens

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780195130720

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195130720.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 28 January 2022

Dynamical Processes in Cirrus Clouds

Dynamical Processes in Cirrus Clouds

A Review of Observational Results

(p.346) 17 Dynamical Processes in Cirrus Clouds

Markus Quante

David O’C. Starr

Oxford University Press

Local dynamical processes are a key factor determining the microphysical characteristics and typically heterogeneous macroscopic structure of cirrus cloud fields. The internal and background flow fields are correspondingly heterogeneous, albeit only weakly turbulent in most instances, as is discussed here. Nucleation processes and ice crystal growth and habit are intrinsically governed by the local temperature and humidity (saturation ratio) conditions that, in turn, are strongly regulated by the intensity and duration of local updrafts and downdrafts. The microphysical result of equivalent lift by a 50cm/s updraft over a cell width of 200m is quite different from that by a 0.5 cm/s updraft over a 2-km width, even though the overall mass fluxes are equivalent. The great degree of horizontal structure seen in fallstreaks emanating from cirrus likely reflects corresponding variability in microphysical properties, primarily ice crystal size, resulting from variability in the dynamical conditions in the ice-crystal-generating layer. The ice fallout process is a first-order effect in determining overall cloud ice water path. Entrainment of noncloudy environmental air and internal mixing processes are other dynamical aspects that likely play a significant role in cloud life cycle. Dynamical processes provide an important coupling between cirrus cloud microphysical and radiative processes, as described in chapter 18 and illustrated in figure 17.1. Cirrus cloud microphysical properties and macroscopic structure strongly affect the overall radiative properties of a cirrus cloud field and thus the important radiative effect of cirrus in the climate system. Knowledge of the dynamical processes influencing cloud macrophysical properties and microphysical structure is important to understanding the origin of these characteristics. Moreover, cloud-resolving models of cirrus cloud systems must be evaluated in these respects due to the importance of cloud dynamical processes in determining overall cloud properties. Dynamical processes in cirrus are linked to the state of the background flow field that, in general, is characterized by significant wind shear and a stable thermal stratification. Gravity waves are ubiquitous and occur over a range of scales. Upper tropospheric turbulence tends to occur intermittently in patches, likely a result of sporadic shear generation (Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities) or breaking gravity waves. Turbulent mixing in stratified shear flows is a notoriously difficult subject, and advances in its description have been obtained only recently (e.g., Fernando 1991; Schumann and Gerz 1995; Vanneste and Haynes 2000).

Keywords:   Richardson number, buoyancy, coherent structures, dissipation rate, entrainment, inertial subrange, large eddy model, mixing, potential temperature, spectral analysis

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