Automated tracking of shallow cumulus clouds in large domain, long duration large eddy simulations
This paper presents a method for feature tracking of fields of shallow cumulus convection in large eddy simulations (LES) by connecting the projected cloud cover in space and time, and by accounting for splitting and merging of cloud objects. Existing methods tend to be either imprecise or, when using the full three-dimensional (3-D) spatial field, prohibitively expensive for large data sets. Compared to those 3-D methods, the current method reduces the memory footprint by up to a factor 100, while retaining most of the precision by correcting for splitting and merging events between different clouds. The precision of the algorithm is further enhanced by taking the vertical extent of the cloud into account. Furthermore, rain and subcloud thermals are also tracked, and links between clouds, their rain, and their subcloud thermals are made. The method compares well with results from the literature. Resolution and domain dependencies are also discussed. For the current simulations, the cloud size distribution converges for clouds larger than an effective resolution of 6 times the horizontal grid spacing, and smaller than about 20% of the horizontal domain size.