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Marine stratocumuli make a major contribution to Earth’s radiation budget. Drizzle in such clouds can greatly affect their albedo, lifetime and fractional coverage, so drizzle rate prediction is important. Here we examine a question: does a drizzle rate (R) depend on cloud depth (H) and/or drop number concentration n in a simple way? This question was raised empirically in several recent publications and an approximate H3/n dependence was observed. Here we suggest a simple explanation for H3 scaling from viewing the drizzle rate as a sedimenting volume fraction ( f ) of water drops (radius r) in air, i.e. R = f u(r ), where u is the fall speed of droplets at the cloud base. Both R and u have units of speed. In our picture, drizzle drops begin from condensation growth on the way up and continue with accretion on the way down. The ascent contributes H ( f ∝ H) and the descent H2 (u ∝ r ∝ f H) to the drizzle rate. A more precise scaling formula is also derived and may serve as a guide for parameterization in global climate models. The number concentration dependence is also discussed and a plausibility argument is given for the observed n−1 dependence of the drizzle rate. Our results suggest that deeper stratocumuli have shorter washout times.

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© 2008 IOP Publishing Ltd. Article deposited here in compliance with publisher policies. Publisher’s version of record:

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Environmental Research Letters


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Physics Commons



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