Holographic observations of centimeter-scale nonuniformities within marine stratocumulus clouds

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Department of Physics


Data collected with a holographic instrument [Holographic Detector for Clouds (HOLODEC)] on board the High-Performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research Gulfstream-V (HIAPER GV) aircraft from marine stratocumulus clouds during the Cloud System Evolution in the Trades (CSET) field project are examined for spatial uniformity. During one flight leg at 1190 m altitude, 1816 consecutive holograms were taken, which were approximately 40 m apart with individual hologram dimensions of 1.16 cm × 0.68 cm × 12.0 cm and with droplet concentrations of up to 500 cm−3. Unlike earlier studies, minimally intrusive data processing (e.g., bypassing calculation of number concentrations, binning, and parametric fitting) is used to test for spatial uniformity of clouds on intra- and interhologram spatial scales (a few centimeters and 40 m, respectively). As a means to test this, measured droplet count fluctuations are normalized with the expected standard deviation from theoretical Poisson distributions, which signifies randomness. Despite the absence of trends in the mean concentration, it is found that the null hypothesis of spatial uniformity on both spatial scales can be rejected with compelling statistical confidence. Monte Carlo simulations suggest that weak clustering explains this signature. These findings also hold for size-resolved analysis but with less certainty. Clustering of droplets caused by, for example, entrainment and turbulence, is size dependent and is likely to influence key processes such as droplet growth and thus cloud lifetime.

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Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences