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Department of Physics


A minimalist model of microphysical properties in cloudy Rayleigh-Bénard convection is developed based on mass and number balances for cloud droplets growing by vapor condensation. The model is relevant to a turbulent mixed-layer in which a steady forcing of supersaturation can be defined, e.g., a model of the cloudy boundary layer or a convection-cloud chamber. The model assumes steady injection of aerosol particles that are activated to form cloud droplets, and the removal of cloud droplets through sedimentation. Simplifying assumptions include the consideration of mean properties in steady state, neglect of coalescence growth, and no detailed representation of the droplet size distribution. Closed-form expressions for cloud droplet radius, number concentration, and liquid water content are derived. Limits of fast and slow microphysics, compared to the turbulent mixing time scale, are explored, and resulting expressions for the scaling of microphysical properties in fast and slow regimes are obtained. Scaling of microphysics with layer thickness is also explored, suggesting that liquid water content and cloud droplet number concentration increase, and mean droplet radius decreases with increasing layer thickness. Finally, the analytical model is shown to compare favorably to solutions of the fully-coupled set of governing ordinary differential equations that describe the system, and the predicted power law for liquid water mixing ratio versus droplet activation rate is observed to be consistent with measurements from the Pi convection-cloud chamber.

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Physical Review Research

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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