Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 153, Issue 2, pp 165–193 | Cite as

Evolution of Stratocumulus Over Land: Comparison of Ground and Aircraft Observations with Numerical Weather Prediction Simulations

  • Simon R. OsborneEmail author
  • Steven J. Abel
  • Ian A. Boutle
  • Franco Marenco


Forecasting of low cloud continues to challenge numerical weather prediction. With this in mind, surface and airborne observations were made over East Anglia, UK, during March 2011 to investigate stratus and stratocumulus advecting from the sea over land. Four surface sites were deployed at various distances inland aligned approximately along the flow. In situ data include cloud-droplet measurements from an aircraft operating off the coast and a tethered balloon 100 km inland. Comparisons of thermodynamic and cloud properties are made with Met Office operational model simulations at horizontal resolutions of 4 and 1.5 km. The clouds contained droplet concentrations up to 600 cm\(^{-3}\) within polluted outflow off Europe. These measurements were compared to three different model schemes for predicting droplet concentration: two of them perform well at low to moderate concentrations but asymptote to 375 cm\(^{-3}\). Microwave radiometers at the ground sites retrieved liquid water paths that reduced with distance inland and were generally below 200 g m\(^{-2}\). The modelled water path performs well upstream but more erratically far inland. Comparisons of thermodynamic profiles are made within both Lagrangian and Eulerian frameworks and show the model predicted changes in equivalent potential temperature generally within 1 K, with occasional errors of 2 K or more. The modelled cloud-top temperatures were in good agreement with the observations down to \(-\)\(^{\circ }\)C, but the magnitude of the temperature inversion, although good at times, was too small by on average 1.6 K. The different simulations produced different cloud-top water contents due to a combination of resolution and scientific upgrades to the model, but they generally underestimate the amount of cloud water. Major changes, such as the mesoscale temporary cloud breaks on 2 March 2011 and the complete clearance on 4 March, were seemingly predicted by the model for the correct reasons.


Cloud break-up Cloud-droplet diagnostic In situ measurements Liquid water content Liquid water path Operational forecast Temperature inversion 



Thanks go to: University of Leeds (Barbara Brooks) for deploying the microwave radiometer at Weybourne; University of East Anglia (Brian Bandy) for allowing us to use the Weybourne Atmospheric Observatory; Chilbolton Facility for Atmospheric and Radio Research (funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council) for provision of their remote sensing data. FAAM is jointly funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Met Office.


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Copyright information

© Crown Copyright  2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon R. Osborne
    • 1
    Email author
  • Steven J. Abel
    • 2
  • Ian A. Boutle
    • 2
  • Franco Marenco
    • 2
  1. 1.Met Office Field SiteCardington AirfieldShortstownUK
  2. 2.Met OfficeFitzRoy WayExeterUK

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