Broadening of modeled cloud droplet spectra using bin microphysics in an eulerian spatial domain

Hugh Morrison, Mikael Witte, George H. Bryan, Jerry Y. Harrington, Zachary J. Lebo

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43 Scopus citations


This study investigates droplet size distribution (DSD) characteristics from condensational growth and transport in Eulerian dynamical models with bin microphysics. A hierarchy of modeling frameworks is utilized, including parcel, one-dimensional (1D), and three-dimensional large-eddy simulation (LES). The bin DSDs from the 1D model, which includes only vertical advection and condensational growth, are nearly as broad as those from the LES and in line with observed DSD widths for stratocumulus clouds. These DSDs are much broader than those from Lagrangian microphysical calculations within a parcel framework that serve as a numerical benchmark for the 1D tests. In contrast, the bin-modeled DSDs are similar to the Lagrangian microphysical benchmark for a rising parcel in which Eulerian transport is not considered. These results indicate that numerical diffusion associated with vertical advection is a key contributor to broadening DSDs in the 1D model and LES. This DSD broadening from vertical numerical diffusion is unphysical, in contrast to the physical mixing processes that previous studies have indicated broaden DSDs in real clouds. It is proposed that artificial DSD broadening from vertical numerical diffusion compensates for underrepresented horizontal variability and mixing of different droplet populations in typical LES configurations with bin microphysics, or the neglect of other mechanisms that broaden DSDs such as growth of giant cloud condensation nuclei. These results call into question the ability of Eulerian dynamical models with bin microphysics to investigate the physical mechanisms for DSD broadening, even though they may reasonably simulate overall DSD characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4005-4030
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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