Anisotropy of Observed and Simulated Turbulence in Marine Stratocumulus

Pedersen J.G., Ma Y-F., Grabowski W.W., Malinowski S.P.

Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems

10(2), 2018, 500-515, 10.1002/2017MS001140

Anisotropy of turbulence near the top of the stratocumulus-topped boundary layer (STBL) is studied using large-eddy simulation (LES) and measurements from the POST and DYCOMS-II field campaigns. Focusing on turbulence math formula m below the cloud top, we see remarkable similarity between daytime and nocturnal flight data covering different inversion strengths and free-tropospheric conditions. With λ denoting wavelength and math formula cloud-top height, we find that turbulence at math formula is weakly dominated by horizontal fluctuations, while turbulence at math formula becomes strongly dominated by horizontal fluctuations. Between are scales at which vertical fluctuations dominate. Typical-resolution LES of the STBL (based on POST flight 13 and DYCOMS-II flight 1) captures observed characteristics of below-cloud-top turbulence reasonably well. However, using a fixed vertical grid spacing of 5 m, decreasing the horizontal grid spacing and increasing the subgrid-scale mixing length leads to increased dominance of vertical fluctuations, increased entrainment velocity, and decreased liquid water path. Our analysis supports the notion that entrainment parameterizations (e.g., in climate models) could potentially be improved by accounting more accurately for anisotropic deformation of turbulence in the cloud-top region. While LES has the potential to facilitate improved understanding of anisotropic cloud-top turbulence, sensitivity to grid spacing, grid-box aspect ratio, and subgrid-scale model needs to be addressed.