A modelling case study of a large-scale cirrus in the tropical tropopause layer

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Abstract

We use the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model to simulate a large-scale tropical tropopause layer (TTL) cirrus, in order to understand the formation and life cycle of the cloud. This cirrus event has been previously described through satellite observations by Taylor et al. (2011). Comparisons of the simulated and observed cirrus show a fair agreement, and validate the reference simulation regarding cloud extension, location and life time. The validated simulation is used to understand the causes of cloud formation. It is shown that several cirrus clouds successively form in the region due to adiabatic cooling and large-scale uplift rather than from ice lofting from convective anvils. The equatorial response (equatorial wave excitation) to a midlatitude potential vorticity (PV) intrusion structures the uplift. <br><br> Sensitivity tests are then performed to assess the relative importance of the choice of the microphysics parametrisation and of the initial and boundary conditions. The initial dynamical conditions (wind and temperature) essentially control the horizontal location and area of the cloud. On the other hand, the choice of the microphysics scheme influences the ice water content and the cloud vertical position. <br><br> Last, the fair agreement with the observations allows to estimate the cloud impact in the TTL in the simulations. The cirrus clouds have a small but not negligible impact on the radiative budget of the local TTL. However, the cloud radiative heating does not significantly influence the simulated dynamics. The simulation also provides an estimate of the vertical redistribution of water by the cloud and the results emphasize the importance in our case of both re and dehydration in the vicinity of the cirrus.

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Plougonven, R., Hertzog, A., & Legras, B. (2016). A modelling case study of a large-scale cirrus in the tropical tropopause layer. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 16(6), 3881–3902. https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-16-3881-2016

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