Impact of Meteorological Factors on the Mesoscale Morphology of Cloud Streets during a Cold-Air Outbreak over the Western North Atlantic

Jingyi Chen, Hailong Wang, Xiangyu Li, David Painemal, Armin Sorooshian, Kenneth Lee Thornhill, Claire Robinson, Taylor Shingler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Postfrontal clouds (PFC) are ubiquitous in the marine boundary layer, and their morphology is essential to estimating the radiation budget in weather and climate models. Here we examine the roles of sea surface temperature (SST) and meteorological factors in controlling the mesoscale morphology and evolution of shallow clouds associated with a cold-air outbreak that occurred on 1 March 2020 during phase I of the Aerosol Cloud Meteorology Interactions over the Western Atlantic Experiment (ACTIVATE). Our results show that the simulated PFC structure and ambient conditions by the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model are generally consistent with observations from GOES-16 and dropsonde measurements. We also examine the thermodynamical and dynamical influences in the cloud mesoscale morphology using WRF sensitivity experiments driven by two meteorological forcing datasets with different domain-mean SST and spatial gradients, which lead to dissimilar values of hydrometeor water path and cloud core fraction. The SST from ERA5 leads to weaker stability and higher inversion height than the SST from FNL does. In addition, the use of large-scale meteorological forcings from ERA5 yields a distinctive time evolution of wind direction shear in the inner domain, which favors the formation and persistence of longer cloud rolls. Both factors contribute to a change in the time evolution of domain-mean water path and cloud core fraction of cloud streets. Our study takes advantage of the simulation driven by the differences between two large-scale forcing datasets to illustrate the importance of SST and wind direction shear in the cloud street morphology in a realistic scenario.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2863-2879
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Cloud cover
  • Cloud resolving models
  • Clouds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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