Observations of the depth of ice particle evaporation beneath frontal cloud to improve NWP modelling
Forbes, R. M. and Hogan, R. J. (2006) Observations of the depth of ice particle evaporation beneath frontal cloud to improve NWP modelling. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 132 (616). pp. 865-883. ISSN 1477-870X
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The evaporation (sublimation) of ice particles beneath frontal ice cloud can provide a significant source of diabatic cooling which can lead to enhanced slantwise descent below the frontal surface. The strength and vertical extent of the cooling play a role in determining the dynamic response of the atmosphere, and an adequate representation is required in numerical weather-prediction (NWP) models for accurate forecasts of frontal dynamics. In this paper, data from a vertically pointing 94 GHz radar are used to determine the characteristic depth-scale of ice particle sublimation beneath frontal ice cloud. A statistical comparison is made with equivalent data extracted from the NWP mesoscale model operational at the Met Office, defining the evaporation depth-scale as the distance for the ice water content to fall to 10% of its peak value in the cloud. The results show that the depth of the ice evaporation zone derived from observations is less than 1 km for 90% of the time. The model significantly overestimates the sublimation depth-scales by a factor of between two and three, and underestimates the local ice water content by a factor of between two and four. Consequently the results suggest the model significantly underestimates the strength of the evaporative cooling, with implications for the prediction of frontal dynamics. A number of reasons for the model discrepancy are suggested. A comparison with radiosonde relative humidity data suggests part of the overestimation in evaporation depth may be due to a high RH bias in the dry slot beneath the frontal cloud, but other possible reasons include poor vertical resolution and deficiencies in the evaporation rate or ice particle fall-speed parametrizations.