Lagrangian and Eulerian Supersaturation Statistics in Turbulent Cloudy Rayleigh–Bénard Convection: Applications for LES Subgrid Modeling

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Department of Physics


Turbulent fluctuations of scalar and velocity fields are critical for cloud microphysical processes, e.g., droplet activation and size distribution evolution, and can therefore influence cloud radiative forcing and precipitation formation. Lagrangian and Eulerian water vapor, temperature, and supersaturation statistics are investigated in direct numerical simulations (DNS) of turbulent Rayleigh–Bénard convection in the Pi Convection Cloud Chamber to provide a foundation for parameterizing subgrid-scale fluctuations in atmospheric models. A subgrid model for water vapor and temperature variances and covariance and supersaturation variance is proposed, valid for both clear and cloudy conditions. Evaluation of phase change contributions through an a priori test using DNS data shows good performance of the model. Supersaturation is a nonlinear function of temperature and water vapor, and relative external fluxes of water vapor and heat (e.g., during entrainment-mixing and phase change) influence turbulent supersaturation fluctuations. Although supersaturation has autocorrelation and structure functions similar to the independent scalars (temperature and water vapor), the autocorrelation time scale of supersaturation differs. Relative scalar fluxes in DNS without cloud make supersaturation PDFs less skewed than the adiabatic case, where they are highly negatively skewed. However, droplet condensation changes the PDF shape response: it becomes positively skewed for the adiabatic case and negatively skewed when the sidewall relative fluxes are large. Condensation also increases correlations between water vapor and temperature in the presence of relative scalar fluxes but decreases correlations for the adiabatic case. These changes in correlation suppress supersaturation variability for the nonadiabatic cases and increase it for the adiabatic case. Implications of this work for subgrid microphysics modeling using a Lagrangian stochastic scheme are also discussed.

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Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences