Observations pertaining to precipitation within the northeast Pacific stratocumulus-to-cumulus transition

Mampi Sarkar, Paquita Zuidema, Bruce Albrecht, Virendra Ghate, Jorgen Jensen, Johannes Mohrmann, Robert Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Three genuine stratocumulus-to-cumulus transitions sampled during the Cloud System Evolution over the Trades (CSET) campaign are documented. The focus is on Lagrangian evolution of in situ precipitation, thought to exceed radar/lidar retrieved values because of Mie scattering. Two of the three initial stratocumulus cases are pristine [cloud droplet number concentrations (Nd) of; 22 cm23] but occupied boundary layers of different depths, while the third is polluted (Nd; 225 cm23). Hourly satellite-derived cloud fraction along Lagrangian trajectories indicate that more quickly deepening boundary layers tend to transition faster, into more intense but more occasional precipitation. These transitions begin either in the morning or late afternoon, suggesting that preceding night processes can precondition or delay the inevitable transition. The precipitation shifts toward larger drop sizes throughout the transition as the boundary layers deepen, with aerosol concentrations only diminishing in two of the three cases. Ultraclean (Nd, 1 cm23) cumulus clouds evolved from pristine stratocumulus cloud with unusually high precipitation rates occupying a shallow, well-mixed boundary layer. Results from a simple one-dimensional evaporation model and from radar/lidar retrievals suggest subcloud evaporation likely increases throughout the transition. This, coupled with larger drop sizes capable of lowering the latent cooling profile, facilitates the transition to more surface-driven convection. The coassociation between boundary layer depth and precipitation does not provide definitive conclusions on the isolated effect of precipitation on the pace of the transition. Differences between the initial conditions of the three examples provide opportunities for further modeling studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1251-1273
Number of pages23
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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