Shallow Cumulus Entrainment Dynamics in a Sheared Environment

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Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences


Vertical wind shear has long been known to tilt convective towers and reduce thermal ascent rates. The purpose of this study is to better understand the physical mechanisms responsible for reduced ascent rates in shallow convection. In particular, the study focuses on cloud-edge mass flux to assess how shear impacts mass-flux profiles of both the ensemble and individual clouds of various depths. A compositing algorithm is used to distill large-eddy simulation (LES) output to focus on up- and down-shear cloud edges that are not influenced by complex cloud geometry or nearby clouds. A direct entrainment algorithm is used to estimate the mass flux through the cloud surface. We find that the dynamics on the up- and down-shear sides are fundamentally different, with the entrainment of environmental momentum and dilution of buoyancy being primarily responsible for the reduced down-shear ascent rates. Direct estimates of fluid flow through the cloud interface indicate a counter-shear organized flow pattern that entrains on the down-shear side and detrains on the up-shear side, resulting from the subcloud shear being lifted into the cloud layer by the updraft. In spite of organized regions of entrainment and detrainment, the overall net lateral mass flux remains unchanged with respect to the no shear run, with weak detrainment present throughout cloud depth.