Christensen, MW; Stephens, GL (2012). Microphysical and macrophysical responses of marine stratocumulus polluted by underlying ships: 2. Impacts of haze on precipitating clouds. JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-ATMOSPHERES, 117, D11203.
The 94-GHz cloud profiling radar on the CloudSat satellite was used to examine the precipitation response of marine stratocumulus clouds to the increased aerosol burden from oceangoing vessels. Aerosol plumes generated by ships sometimes influence cloud microphysics and, to a largely undetermined extent, precipitation. To assess this response, the locations of over one thousand ship tracks coinciding with the radar were meticulously logged by hand from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) imagery. Although precipitation detectable by the radar was infrequent, drizzle rates were often suppressed (72% of cases) and lighter in the ship tracks compared to the clouds adjacent to them. Ship plumes primarily decreased average rain rates through reducing the spatial coverage of precipitation. However, larger liquid water paths in ship tracks seldom coincided with the reduced cloud water sink from the suppression of precipitation (in less than 20% of cases). The sign and strength of the precipitation response was primarily tied to the mesoscale convective structure of the clouds. When closed cellular clouds were identified, significant decreases in the relative average liquid water path, rain rate (an average relative decrease of 68%), and rain cover fraction were observed in ship tracks compared to the surrounding clouds. The opposite occurred in the open cell regime where it was more common to find enhanced precipitation in the perturbed clouds. Ship plumes ingested into this regime resulted in significantly deeper and brighter clouds with higher liquid water amounts and rain rates (an average relative increase of 89%).