Quantifying the Cloud Water Resource: Basic Concepts and Characteristics


  • The water in the air is composed of water vapor and hydrometeors, which are inseparable in the global atmosphere. Precipitation basically comes from hydrometeors instead of directly from water vapor, but hydrometeors are rarely focused on in previous studies. When assessing the maximum potential precipitation, it is necessary to quantify the total amount of hydrometeors present in the air within an area for a certain period of time. Those hydrometeors that have not participated in precipitation formation in the surface, suspending in the atmosphere to be exploited, are defined as the cloud water resource (CWR). Based on the water budget equations, we defined 16 terms (including 12 independent ones) respectively related to the hydrometeors, water vapor, and total water substance in the atmosphere, and 12 characteristic variables related to precipitation and CWR such as precipitation efficiency (PE) and renewal time (RT). Correspondingly, the CWR contributors are grouped into state terms, advection terms, and source/sink terms. Two methods are developed to quantify the CWR (details of which are presented in the companion paper) with satellite observations, atmospheric reanalysis data, precipitation products, and cloud resolving models. The CWR and related variables over North China in April and August 2017 are thus derived. The results show that CWR has the same order of magnitude as surface precipitation (Ps). The hydrometers converted from water vapor (Cvh) during the condensation process is the primary source of precipitation. It is highly correlated with Ps and contributes the most to the CWR over a large region. The state variables and advection terms of hydrometeors are two orders of magnitude lower than the corresponding terms of water vapor. The atmospheric hydrometeors can lead to higher PE than water vapor (several tens of percent versus a few percent), with a shorter RT (only a few hours versus several days). For daily CWR, the state terms are important, but for monthly and longer-time mean CWR, the source/sink terms (i.e., cloud microphysical processes) contribute the largest; meanwhile, the advection terms contribute less for larger study areas.
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