Physics of Stratocumulus Top (POST): turbulent mixing across capping inversion

Malinowski S.P., Gerber H., Jen-La Plante I., Kopec M.K., Kumala W., Nurowska K., Chuang P.Y., Khelif D., Haman K.E.

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics

13, 2013, 12171-12186, 10.5194/acp-13-12171-2013

High spatial resolution measurements of temperature and liquid water content, accompanied by moderate-resolution measurements of humidity and turbulence, collected during the Physics of Stratocumulus Top experiment are analyzed. Two thermodynamically, meteorologically and even optically different cases are investigated. An algorithmic division of the cloud-top region into layers is proposed. Analysis of dynamic stability across these layers leads to the conclusion that the inversion capping the cloud and the cloud-top region is turbulent due to the wind shear, which is strong enough to overcome the high static stability of the inversion. The thickness of this mixing layer adapts to wind and temperature jumps such that the gradient Richardson number stays close to its critical value. Turbulent mixing governs transport across the inversion, but the consequences of this mixing depend on the thermodynamic properties of cloud top and free troposphere. The effects of buoyancy sorting of the mixed parcels in the cloud-top region are different in conditions that permit or prevent cloud-top entrainment instability. Removal of negatively buoyant air from the cloud top is observed in the first case, while buildup of the diluted cloud-top layer is observed in the second one.