Skip to main content
Factors Controlling Stratocumulus Cloud Lifetime Over Coastal Land
Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences
  • Mohamed S. Ghonima, University of California
  • Thijs Heus, Cleveland State University
  • Joel R. Norris, University of California
  • Jan Kleissl, University of California
Document Type
Publication Date

The breakup of stratocumulus clouds over coastal land areas is studied using a combination of large-eddy simulations (LESs) and mixed-layer models (MLMs) with a focus on mechanisms regulating the timing of the breakup. In contrast with stratocumulus over ocean, strong sensible heat flux over land prevents the cloud layer from decoupling during day. As the cloud thins during day, turbulence generated by surface flux becomes larger than turbulence generated by longwave cooling across the cloud layer. To capture this shift in turbulence generation in the MLM, an existing entrainment parameterization is extended. The MLM is able to mimic cloud evolution for a variety of Bowen ratios, but only after this modification of the entrainment parameterization. Cloud lifetime depends on a combination of the cloud-top entrainment flux, the Bowen ratio of the surface, and the strength of advection of cool ocean air by the sea breeze. For dry land surface conditions, the authors’ MLM suggests a breakup time a few hours after sunrise. For relatively wet land surface conditions, the cloud layer briefly breaks into partly cloudy conditions during midday, and the stratocumulus cloud reforms in the evening.

Publisher's PDF
Citation Information
Mohamed S. Ghonima, Thijs Heus, Joel R. Norris and Jan Kleissl. "Factors Controlling Stratocumulus Cloud Lifetime Over Coastal Land" Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences Vol. 73 Iss. 8 (2016) p. 2961 - 2983
Available at: