Ship-Based Observations of the Diurnal Cycle of Southeast Pacific Marine Stratocumulus Clouds and Precipitation

  • Burleyson C
  • de Szoeke S
  • Yuter S
 et al. 
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AbstractThe diurnal cycle of marine stratocumulus in cloud-topped boundary layers is examined using ship-based meteorological data obtained during the 2008 Variability of American Monsoon Systems (VAMOS) Ocean?Cloud?Atmosphere?Land Study Regional Experiment (VOCALS-REx). The high temporal and spatial continuity of the ship data, as well as the 31-day sample size, allows the diurnal transition in degree of coupling of the stratocumulus-topped boundary layer to be resolved. The amplitude of diurnal variation was comparable to the magnitude of longitudinal differences between regions east and west of 80°W for most of the cloud, surface, and precipitation variables examined. The diurnal cycle of precipitation is examined in terms of areal coverage, number of drizzle cells, and estimated rain rate. East of 80°W, the drizzle cell frequency and drizzle area peaks just prior to sunrise. West of 80°W, total drizzle area peaks at 0300 local solar time (LST), 2?3 h before sunrise. Peak drizzle cell frequency is 3 times higher west of 80°W compared to east of 80°W. The waning of drizzle several hours prior to the ramp up of shortwave fluxes may be related to the higher peak drizzle frequencies in the west. The ensemble effect of localized subcloud evaporation of precipitation may make drizzle a self-limiting process where the areal density of drizzle cells is sufficiently high. The daytime reduction in vertical velocity variance in a less coupled boundary layer is accompanied by enhanced stratification of potential temperature and a buildup of moisture near the surface.

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  • Casey D. Burleyson

  • Simon P. de Szoeke

  • Sandra E. Yuter

  • Matt Wilbanks

  • W. Alan Brewer

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