loading page

A Lagrangian perspective on tropical anvil cloud lifecycle in present and future climate
  • +2
  • Blaz Gasparini,
  • Philip J. Rasch,
  • Dennis L. Hartmann,
  • Casey James Wall,
  • Marina Duetsch
Blaz Gasparini
University of Washington, University of Washington

Corresponding Author:blazg@uw.edu

Author Profile
Philip J. Rasch
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (DOE), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (DOE)
Author Profile
Dennis L. Hartmann
University of Washington, University of Washington
Author Profile
Casey James Wall
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Author Profile
Marina Duetsch
University of Washington, University of Washington
Author Profile


The evolution of tropical anvil clouds from their origin in deep convective cores to their slow decay determines the climatic effects of clouds in tropical convective regions. Despite the relevance of anvil clouds for climate and responses of clouds to global warming, processes dominating their evolution are not well understood. Currently available observational data reveal instantaneous snapshots of anvil cloud properties, but cannot provide a process-based perspective on anvil evolution. We therefore conduct simulations with the high resolution version of the Exascale Earth System Model in which we track mesoscale convective systems over the Tropical Western Pacific and compute trajectories that follow ice crystals detrained from peaks of convective activity. With this approach we gain new insight into the anvil cloud evolution both in present day and future climate. Comparison with geostationary satellite data shows that the model is able to simulate maritime mesoscale convective systems reasonably well. Trajectory results indicate that anvil cloud lifetime is about 15 hours with no significant difference in a warmer climate. The anvil cloud ice water content is larger in a warmer climate due to a larger source of ice by detrainment and larger depositional growth leading to a more negative net cloud radiative effect along detrained trajectories. However, the increases in sources are counteracted by increases in sinks of ice, particularly snow formation and sedimentation. Furthermore, we find that the mean anvil cloud feedback along trajectories is positive and consistent with results from more traditional cloud feedback calculation methods.
27 Feb 2021Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres volume 126 issue 4. 10.1029/2020JD033487