Georgia Sotiropoulou
Department of Meteorology, Stockholm University


The Arctic Atmosphere: Interactions between clouds, boundary-layer turbulence and large-scale circulation


Arctic climate is changing fast, but weather forecast and climate models have serious deficiencies in representing the Arctic atmosphere, because of the special conditions that occur in this region. The cold ice surface and the advection of warm air aloft from the south result in a semi-continuous presence of a temperature inversion, known as the “Arctic inversion”, which is governed by interacting large-scale and local processes, such as surface fluxes and cloud formation. In this thesis these poorly understood interactions are investigated using observations from field campaigns on the Swedish icebreaker Oden: The Arctic Summer Cloud Ocean Study (ASCOS) in 2008 and the Arctic Clouds in Summer Experiment (ACSE) in 2014. Two numerical models are also used to explore these data: the IFS global weather forecast model from the European Center for Medium-range Weather Forecasts and the MIMICA LES from Stockholm University.

Arctic clouds can persist for a long time, days to weeks, and are usually mixed-phase; a difficult to model mixture of super-cooled cloud droplets and ice crystals. Their persistence has been attributed to several mechanisms, such as large-scale advection, surface evaporation and microphysical processes. ASCOS observations indicate that these clouds are most frequently decoupled from the surface; hence, surface evaporation plays a minor role. The determining factor for cloud-surface decoupling is the altitude of the clouds. Turbulent mixing is generated in the cloud layer, forced by cloud-top radiative cooling, but with a high cloud this cannot penetrate down to the surface mixed layer, which is forced primarily by mechanical turbulence. A special category of clouds is also found: optically thin liquid-only clouds with stable stratification, hence insignificant in-cloud mixing, which occur in low-aerosol conditions. IFS model fails to reproduce the cloud-surface decoupling observed during ASCOS. A new prognostic cloud physics scheme in IFS improves simulation of mixed-phase clouds, but does not improve the warm bias in the model, mostly because IFS fails to disperse low surface-warming clouds when observations indicate cloud-free conditions.

With increasing summer open-water areas in a warming Arctic, there is a growing interest in processes related to the ice marginal zones and the summer-to-autumn seasonal transition. ACSE included measurements over both open-water and sea-ice surfaces, during melt and early freeze. The seasonal transition was abrupt, not gradual as would have been expected if it was primarily driven by the gradual changes in net solar radiation. After the transition, the ocean surface remained warmer than the atmosphere, enhancing surface cooling and facilitating sea-ice formation. Observations in melt season showed distinct differences in atmospheric structure between the two surface types; during freeze-up these largely disappear. In summer, large-scale advection of warm and moist air over melting sea ice had large impacts on atmospheric stability and the surface. This is explored with an LES; results indicate that while vertical structure of the lowest atmosphere is primarily sensitive to heat advection, cloud formation, which is of great importance to the surface energy budget, is primarily sensitive to moisture advection.

Time and place
Wednesday 30 November 2016, 10.00
Nordenskiöldsalen, Geoscience Building