Cloud dynamics: How cloud shapes influence interactions between clouds and the atmosphere



Fast, Jerome D — Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Area of research:

Cloud Processes

Journal Reference:

Chen J, S Hagos, H Xiao, J Fast, C Lu, A Varble, Z Feng, and J Sun. 2023. "The Effects of Shallow Cumulus Cloud Shape on Interactions Among Clouds and Mixing With Near‐Cloud Environments." Geophysical Research Letters, 50(24), e2023GL106334, 10.1029/2023GL106334.


In this study, researchers conducted large-eddy simulations to investigate how cloud shapes, particularly their overall shape and edge irregularities, influence their life cycles. Two new metrics were introduced to quantify cloud shapes — one measuring the overall horizontal shape, and the other assessing the irregularity of the cloud's edge.


The link between the irregularity of cloud edges and life-cycle processes, such as cloud splitting and lateral mixing, sheds new light on the complex interactions between clouds and the atmosphere.


This research provides new insights into the life cycle of shallow cumulus clouds by focusing on their shapes and cloud boundary processes. Using large-eddy simulations, the study introduces novel metrics to assess cloud shapes and discovers a strong link between edge irregularity and cloud splitting, alongside enhanced mixing with the surrounding environment. These findings highlight the crucial role of cloud edge irregularity in cloud evolution, offering valuable information for meteorologists and climate scientists. The research not only advances understanding of cloud dynamics but also has potential implications for improving weather prediction and climate modeling.