Shallow Cumulus Properties as Captured by Adiabatic Fraction in High-Resolution LES Simulations

Eshkol Eytan, Alexander Khain, Mark Pinsky, Orit Altaratz, Jacob Shpund, Ilan Koren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Shallow convective clouds are important players in Earth’s energy budget and hydrological cycle, and are abundant in the tropical and subtropical belts. They greatly contribute to the uncertainty in climate predictions due to their unresolved, complex processes that include coupling between the dynamics and microphysics. Analysis of cloud structure can be simplified by considering cloud motions as a combination of moist adiabatic motions like adiabatic updrafts and turbulent motions leading to deviation from adiabaticity. In this work, we study the sizes and occurrence of adiabatic regions in shallow cumulus clouds during their growth and mature stages, and use the adiabatic fraction (AF) as a continuous metric to describe cloud processes and properties from the core to the edge. To do so, we simulate isolated trade wind cumulus clouds of different sizes using the System of Atmospheric Modeling (SAM) model in high resolution (10 m) with the Hebrew University spectral bin microphysics (SBM). The fine features in the clouds’ dynamics and microphysics, including small near-adiabatic volumes and a thin transition zone at the edge of the cloud (∼20–40 m in width), are captured. The AF is shown to be an efficient measure for analyzing cloud properties and key processes determining the droplet-size distribution formation and shape during the cloud evolution. Physical processes governing the properties of droplet size distributions at different cloud regions (e.g., core, edge) are analyzed in relation to AF.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-428
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Cloud microphysics
  • Cumulus clouds
  • Large eddy simulations
  • Mixing

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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