Monday, December 19, 2011

Evaporation Cycle

The following diagram presents the simplified cycle of evaporation and precipitation we propose to implement in Circulating Cells Version 10.1.

Evaporation takes place from the sea, as before. When a body of moist air rises, it cools, and microscopic droplets form by condensation. Clouds of such droplets that happen to descend from above will warm up, and some or all of their droplets will evaporate. A cloud of droplets whose temperature drops below some threshold Tf will be transformed into snowflakes by the Bergeron Process, warming the surrounding gas with latent heat of fusion. We choose Tf several degrees below the freezing point of water, so we can assume the freezing takes place rapidly.

In our simulation, snow will fall at an average of 1 m/s, which we base upon our own observations. We will implement snow fall in the same way we implemented sinking clouds. Snow that reaches the surface will melt and thus take its latent heat of fusion from the surface block. This melting at the surface is the simplest way we can think of to conserve the latent heat of fusion of the water involved in our evaporation cycle. We assume that our surface water itself never freezes, no matter how cold it gets.

Our clouds, meanwhile, will no longer sink. Real cloud droplets are of order ten microns in diameter and sink at a few millimeters per second. The contribution of such sinking to our new cycle would be negligible.

Snow that enters a gas cell at a temperature greater than Tm will melt, cooling the surrounding gas by absorbing its latent heat of fusion. The melted snowflakes become raindrops a few millimeters in diameter, and these fall at 5 m/s. With the simulation set up as we have it now, the cells are around 400 m high, so rain will take a minute or two to fall out of one cell into the next. We will choose Tm several degrees above the melting point of water so we can assume the melting takes place rapidly.

Our simplified evaporation cycle omits many interesting evaporation-related phenomena. When rain drops are carried up into cold air, for example, they form hail, which later falls to Earth. When liquid rain falls into sufficiently dry air, it evaporates and disappears altogether, giving rise to virga. When air rises at just the right speed along a mountain slope, water droplets join together to form rain drops, as in orographic precipitation. Our simulation will contain none of these interesting phenomena. But we believe it will capture the fundamental features of the Earth's evaporation cycle, and so allow us to investigate how this cycle influences the global surface temperature.

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