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Rain evaporation, snow melt and entrainment at the heart of water vapor isotopic variations in the tropical troposphere, according to large-eddy simulations and a two-column model
  • Camille Risi,
  • Caroline J. Muller,
  • Peter N. Blossey
Camille Risi
LMD, IPSL, CNRS, Paris, France

Corresponding Author:camille.risi@lmd.jussieu.fr

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Caroline J. Muller
CNRS - Ecole Polytechnique
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Peter N. Blossey
University of Washington
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The goal of this study is twofold. First, we aim at developing a simple model as an interpretative framework for the water vapor isotopic variations in the tropical troposphere over the ocean. We use large-eddy simulations to justify the underlying assumptions of this simple model, to constrain its input parameters and to evaluate its results. Second, we aim at interpreting the depletion of the water vapor isotopic composition in the lower and mid-troposphere as precipitation increases, which is a salient feature in tropical oceanic observations. This feature constitutes a stringent test on the relevance of our interpretative framework. Previous studies, based on observations or on models with parameterized convection, have highlighted the roles of deep convective and meso-scale downdrafts, rain evaporation, rain-vapor diffusive exchanges and mixing processes. The interpretative framework that we develop is a two-column model representing the net ascent in clouds and the net descent in the environment. We show that the mechanisms for depleting the troposphere when precipitation rate increases all stem from the higher tropospheric relative humidity. First, when the relative humidity is larger, less snow sublimates before melting and a smaller fraction of rain evaporates. Both effects lead to more depleted rain evaporation and eventually more depleted water vapor. This mechanism dominates in regimes of large-scale ascent. Second, the entrainment of dry air into clouds reduces the vertical isotopic gradient and limits the depletion of tropospheric water vapor. This mechanism dominates in regimes of large-scale descent.