Water isotopic characterisation of the cloud–circulation coupling in the North Atlantic trades – Part 1: A process-oriented evaluation of COSMOiso simulations with EUREC4A observations

martin.werner [ at ] awi.de


Naturally available, stable, and heavy water molecules such as HDO and H18O have a lower satura- 2 tion vapour pressure than the most abundant light water molecule H16O; therefore, these heavy water molecules 2 preferentially condense and rain out during cloud formation. Stable water isotope observations thus have the potential to provide information on cloud processes in the trade-wind region, in particular when combined with high-resolution model simulations. In order to evaluate this potential, nested COSMOiso (isotope-enabled Con- sortium for Small Scale Modelling; Steppeler et al., 2003; Pfahl et al., 2012) simulations with explicit convection and horizontal grid spacings of 10, 5, and 1 km were carried out in this study over the tropical Atlantic for the time period of the EUREC4A (Elucidating the role of clouds-circulation coupling in climate; Stevens et al., 2021) field experiment. The comparison to airborne in situ and remote sensing observations shows that the three simu- lations are able to distinguish between different mesoscale cloud organisation patterns as well as between periods with comparatively high and low rain rates. Cloud fraction and liquid water content show a better agreement with aircraft observations with higher spatial resolution, because they show strong spatial variations on the scale of a few kilometres. A low-level cold-dry bias, including too depleted vapour in the subcloud and cloud layer and too enriched vapour in the free troposphere, is found in all three simulations. Furthermore, the simulated sec- ondary isotope variable d-excess in vapour is overestimated compared to observations. Special attention is given to the cloud base level, which is the formation altitude of shallow cumulus clouds. The temporal variability of the simulated isotope variables at cloud base agrees reasonably well with observations, with correlations of the flight-to-flight data as high as 0.7 for δ2H and d-excess. A close examination of isotopic characteristics under precipitating clouds, non-precipitating clouds, clear-sky and dry-warm patches at the altitude of cloud base shows that these different environments are represented faithfully in the model with similar frequencies of occurrence, isotope signals, and specific-humidity anomalies as found in the observations. Furthermore, it is shown that the δ2H of cloud base vapour at the hourly timescale is mainly controlled by mesoscale transport and not by local microphysical processes, while the d-excess is mainly controlled by large-scale drivers. Overall, this evaluation of COSMOiso, including the isotopic characterisation of different cloud base environments, suggests that the simulations can be used for investigating the role of atmospheric circulations on different scales for controlling the formation of shallow cumulus clouds in the trade-wind region, as will be done in part 2 of this study.

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DOI 10.5194/acp-23-14643-2023

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Villiger, L. , Dütsch, M. , Bony, S. , Lothon, M. , Pfahl, S. , Wernli, H. , Brilouet, P. E. , Chazette, P. , Coutris, P. , Delanoë, J. , Flamant, C. , Schwarzenboeck, A. , Werner, M. and Aemisegger, F. (2023): Water isotopic characterisation of the cloud–circulation coupling in the North Atlantic trades – Part 1: A process-oriented evaluation of COSMOiso simulations with EUREC4A observations , Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 23 (23), pp. 14643-14672 . doi: 10.5194/acp-23-14643-2023

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