On the Roles of Precipitation and Entrainment in Stratocumulus Transitions between Mesoscale States

Fabian Hoffmann*, Franziska Glassmeier, Takanobu Yamaguchi, Graham Feingold

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Stratocumulus occur in closed- or open-cell states, which tend to be associated with high or low cloud cover and the absence or presence of precipitation, respectively. Thus, the transition between these states has substantial implications for the role of this cloud type in Earth’s radiation budget. In this study, we analyze transitions between these states using an ensemble of 127 large-eddy simulations, covering a wide range of conditions. Our analysis is focused on the behavior of these clouds in a cloud fraction (fc) scene albedo (A) phase space, which has been shown in previous studies to be a useful framework for interpreting system behavior. For the transition from closed to open cells, we find that precipitation creates narrower clouds and scavenges cloud droplets for all fc. However, precipitation decreases the cloud depth for fc > 0.8 only, causing a rapid decrease in A. For fc < 0.8, the cloud depth actually increases due to mesoscale organization of the cloud field. As the cloud deepening balances the effects of cloud droplet scavenging in terms of influence on A, changes in A are determined by the decreasing fc only, causing a linear decrease in A for fc < 0.8. For the transition from open to closed cells, we find that longwave radiative cooling drives the cloud development, with cloud widening dominating for fc < 0.5. For fc > 0.5, clouds begin to deepen gradually due to the decreasing efficiency of lateral expansion. The smooth switch between cloud widening and deepening leads to a more gentle change in A compared to the transitions under precipitating conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2791-2803
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Aerosol-cloud interaction
  • Cloud cover
  • Cloud microphysics
  • Cloud parameterizations
  • Cloud radiative effects
  • Cloud resolving models


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