Turbulence-induced droplet grouping and augmented rain formation in cumulus clouds

This paper provides the first observational analysis of how droplet separation is impacted by the flinging action of microscale vortices in turbulent clouds over a select radii range and how they vary over cloud cores and along the peripheral edges. It is premised that this mechanism initiates droplet separation within a cloud volume soon after condensational growth, largely in the cloud core, and operates until the cloud droplet radii exceed 20–30 µm when this effect fades rapidly. New observations are presented showing how microscale vortices also impact the settling rates of droplets over a critical size range (6–18 µm) causing them to sediment faster than in still air affecting swept volumes and thereby impacting the rain initiation and formation. Large-scale atmospheric models ignore these microscale effects linked to rapid droplet growth during the early stages of cloud conversion. Previous studies on droplet spatial organization along the cloud edges and inside the deep core have shown that homogeneous Poisson statistics, indicative of the presence of a vigorous in-cloud mixing process at small scales obtained, in contrast to an inhomogeneous distribution along the edges. In this paper, it is established that this marked core region, homogeneity can be linked to microscale vortical activity which flings cloud droplets in the range of 6–18 µm outward. The typical radius of the droplet trajectories or the droplet flung radii around the vortices correlates with the interparticle distance strongly. The correlation starts to diminish as one proceeds from the central core to the cloud fringes because of the added entrainment of cloud-free air. These first results imply that droplet growth in the core is first augmented with this small-scale interaction prior to other more large-scale processes involving entrainment mixing. This first study, combining these amplified velocities are included in a Weather Research and Forecasting- LES case study. Not only are significant differences observed in the cloud morphology when compared to a baseline case, but the ‘enhanced’ case also shows early commencement of rainfall along with intense precipitation activity compared to the ‘standard’ baseline case. It is also shown that the modelled equilibrium raindrop spectrum agrees better with observations when the enhanced droplet sedimentation rates mediated by microscale vortices are included in the calculations compared to the case where only still-air terminal velocities are used.


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Authors: Gumber, Siddharth ORCIDORCID record for Siddharth Gumber, Bera, Sudarsan, Ghosh, Satyajit, Prabhakaran, Thara V.

On this site: Siddharth Gumber
4 May, 2024
Scientific Reports / 14
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