Physics of Stratocumulus Top (POST): turbulence characteristics

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

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics

16, 2016, 9711-9725, 10.5194/acp-16-9711-2016

Turbulence observed during the Physics of Stratocumulus Top (POST) research campaign is analyzed. Using in-flight measurements of dynamic and thermodynamic variables at the interface between the stratocumulus cloud top and free troposphere, the cloud top region is classified into sublayers, and the thicknesses of these sublayers are estimated. The data are used to calculate turbulence characteristics, including the bulk Richardson number, mean-square velocity fluctuations, turbulence kinetic energy (TKE), TKE dissipation rate, and Corrsin, Ozmidov and Kolmogorov scales. A comparison of these properties among different sublayers indicates that the entrainment interfacial layer consists of two significantly different sublayers: the turbulent inversion sublayer (TISL) and the moist, yet hydrostatically stable, cloud top mixing sublayer (CTMSL). Both sublayers are marginally turbulent, i.e., the bulk Richardson number across the layers is critical. This means that turbulence is produced by shear and damped by buoyancy such that the sublayer thicknesses adapt to temperature and wind variations across them. Turbulence in both sublayers is anisotropic, with Corrsin and Ozmidov scales as small as ∼0.3 and ∼3 m in the TISL and CTMSL, respectively. These values are ∼60 and ∼15 times smaller than typical layer depths, indicating flattened large eddies and suggesting no direct mixing of cloud top and free-tropospheric air. Also, small scales of turbulence are different in sublayers as indicated by the corresponding values of Kolmogorov scales and buoyant and shear Reynolds numbers.