Turbulence in Continental Stratocumulus, Part II: Eddy Dissipation Rates and Large-Eddy Coherent Structures

Ming Fang, Bruce A. Albrecht, Virendra P. Ghate, Pavlos Kollias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This study first illustrates the utility of using the Doppler spectrum width from millimetre wavelength radar to calculate the energy dissipation rate and then to use the energy dissipation rate to study turbulence structure in a continental stratocumulus cloud. It is shown that the turbulence kinetic energy dissipation rate calculated from the radar-measured Doppler spectrum width agrees well with that calculated from the Doppler velocity power spectrum. During the 16-h stratocumulus cloud event, the small-scale turbulence contributes 40 % of the total velocity variance at cloud base, 50 % at normalized cloud depth = 0.8 and 70 % at cloud top, which suggests that small-scale turbulence plays a critical role near the cloud top where the entrainment and cloud-top radiative cooling act. The 16-h mean vertical integral length scale decreases from about 160 m at cloud base to 60 m at cloud top, and this signifies that the larger scale turbulence dominates around cloud base whereas the small-scale turbulence dominates around cloud top. The energy dissipation rate, total variance and squared spectrum width exhibit diurnal variations, but unlike marine stratocumulus they are high during the day and lowest around sunset at all levels; energy dissipation rates increase at night with the intensification of the cloud-top cooling. In the normalized coordinate system, the averaged coherent structure of updrafts is characterized by low energy dissipation rates in the updraft core and higher energy dissipation rates surround the updraft core at the top and along the edges. In contrast, the energy dissipation rate is higher inside the downdraft core indicating that the downdraft core is more turbulent. The turbulence around the updraft is weaker at night and stronger during the day; the opposite is true around the downdraft. This behaviour indicates that the turbulence in the downdraft has a diurnal cycle similar to that observed in marine stratocumulus whereas the turbulence diurnal cycle in the updraft is reversed. For both updraft and downdraft, the maximum energy dissipation rate occurs at a cloud depth = 0.8 where the maximum reflectivity and air acceleration or deceleration are observed. Resolved turbulence dominates near cloud base whereas unresolved turbulence dominates near cloud top. Similar to the unresolved turbulence, the resolved turbulence described by the radial velocity variance is higher in the downdraft than in the updraft. The impact of the surface heating on the resolved turbulence in the updraft decreases with height and diminishes around the cloud top. In both updrafts and downdrafts, the resolved turbulence increases with height and reaches a maximum at cloud depth = 0.4 and then decreases to the cloud top; the resolved turbulence near cloud top, just as the unresolved turbulence, is mostly due to the cloud-top radiative cooling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-380
Number of pages20
JournalBoundary-Layer Meteorology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Coherent structures
  • Continental stratocumulus
  • Energy dissipation rate
  • Radar observed spectrum width

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Turbulence in Continental Stratocumulus, Part II: Eddy Dissipation Rates and Large-Eddy Coherent Structures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this