Radiative–convective equilibrium in a three-dimensional cloud-ensemble model

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Abstract

A knowledge of radiative convective interactions is key to an understanding of the tropical climate. In an attempt to address this a cloud-resolving model has been run to a radiative-convective equilibrium state in three dimensions. The model includes a three-phase bulk microphysical scheme and a fully interactive two-stream broadband radiative-transfer scheme for both the infrared and solar radiation. The simulation is performed using a fixed sea surface temperature, and cyclic lateral boundary conditions. No ‘large-scale’ convergence, mean wind shear or background vorticity was imposed.

The total integration lasted 70 days, and a statistical equilibrium state was reached at all heights after 30 days of simulation in all model variables. It is seen that some variables, such as vertical mass flux, adjust quickly to their equilibrium values while others, such as column-integrated water amount, domain-mean temperature and convective available potential energy (CAPE) display variation on a longer 30-day time-scale. The equilibrium state had a column-integrated vapour amount of 42.3 kg m−2, a mean temperature of 258.7 K and a pseudo-adiabatic CAPE value of 1900 J kg−1. The equilibrium-state statistics are consistent with tropical observations.

The convection does not remain randomly distributed but instead becomes organized, aligning in a band structure associated with high moisture values in the boundary layer. This organization seems to result from interactions between radiation, convection and surface fluxes. The surface-flux feedback is due to higher boundary-layer winds, associated with convection, increasing surface fluxes of moisture locally. Horizontally inhomogeneous radiation can act to make clouds longer lasting and also increase convergence into cloudy region. Replacing the wind-sensitive surface-flux calculation with a linear relaxation to surface values appeared to largely destroy this organization, as did the use of an imposed horizontally uniform radiative-heating rate.

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