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Published September 2019 | Published
Journal Article Open

Marine Boundary Layer Clouds Associated with Coastally Trapped Disturbances: Observations and Model Simulations


Modeling marine low clouds and fog in coastal environments remains an outstanding challenge due to the inherently complex ocean–land–atmosphere system. This is especially important in the context of global circulation models due to the profound radiative impact of these clouds. This study utilizes aircraft and satellite measurements, in addition to numerical simulations using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model, to examine three well-observed coastally trapped disturbance (CTD) events from June 2006, July 2011, and July 2015. Cloud water-soluble ionic and elemental composition analyses conducted for two of the CTD cases indicate that anthropogenic aerosol sources may impact CTD cloud decks due to synoptic-scale patterns associated with CTD initiation. In general, the dynamics and thermodynamics of the CTD systems are well represented and are relatively insensitive to the choice of physics parameterizations; however, a set of WRF simulations suggests that the treatment of model physics strongly influences CTD cloud field evolution. Specifically, cloud liquid water path (LWP) is highly sensitive to the choice of the planetary boundary layer (PBL) scheme; in many instances, the PBL scheme affects cloud extent and LWP values as much as or more than the microphysics scheme. Results suggest that differences in the treatment of entrainment and vertical mixing in the Yonsei University (nonlocal) and Mellor–Yamada–Janjić (local) PBL schemes may play a significant role. The impact of using different driving models—namely, the North American Mesoscale Forecast System (NAM) 12-km analysis and the NCEP North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) 32-km products—is also investigated.

Additional Information

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. (Manuscript received 20 October 2018, in final form 24 June 2019) The authors are grateful for support in part from the State of Wyoming and the Carlton R. Barkhurst Fellowship (TWJ), NCAR through the National Science Foundation (GT), the National Science Foundation through Grant AGS-1439515 (DAR), the Office of Naval Research through Grant N00014-17-1-2719 (JHS), the Office of Naval Research through Grants N00014-10-1-0811 and N00014-16-1-2567 (AS), and the Department of Energy through Grant DE-SC0016354 (ZJL). We thank the three anonymous reviewers, in addition to the editor, whose valuable comments have improved the manuscript. We would also like to acknowledge high-performance computing support from Cheyenne (doi: https://doi.org/10.5065/D6RX99HX) provided by NCAR's Computational and Information Systems Laboratory and sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The authors gratefully acknowledge the NOAA Air Resources Laboratory (ARL) for the provision of the HYSPLIT transport and dispersion model and READY website (http://www.ready.noaa.gov) used in this publication.

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August 22, 2023
October 18, 2023