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Do Undiluted Convective Plumes Exist in the Upper Tropical Troposphere?

David M. RompsDepartment of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Zhiming KuangDepartment of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Abstract

Using a passive tracer, entrainment is studied in cloud-resolving simulations of deep convection in radiative–convective equilibrium. It is found that the convective flux of undiluted parcels decays with height exponentially, indicating a constant probability per vertical distance of mixing with environmental air. This probability per distance is sufficiently large that undiluted updrafts are negligible above a height of 4–5 km and virtually absent above 10 km. These results are shown to be independent of the horizontal grid size within the range of 3.2 km to 100 m. Plumes that do reach the tropopause are found to be highly diluted.

An equivalent potential temperature is defined that is exactly conserved for all reversible adiabatic transformations, including those with ice. Using this conserved variable, it is shown that the latent heat of fusion (from both freezing and deposition) causes only a small increase in the level of neutral buoyancy near the tropopause. In fact, when taken to sufficiently low pressures, a parcel with an ice phase ends up colder than it would without an ice phase. Nevertheless, the contribution from fusion to a parcel’s kinetic energy is quite large.

Using an ensemble of tracers, information is encoded in parcels at the cloud base and decoded where the parcel is observed in the free troposphere. Using this technique, clouds at the tropopause are diagnosed for their cloud-base temperature, specific humidity, and vertical velocity. Using these as the initial values for a Lagrangian parcel model, it is shown that fusion provides the kinetic energy required for diluted parcels to reach the tropopause.

Corresponding author address: David M. Romps, Harvard University, 416 Geological Museum, 24 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA 02138. Email: davidromps@gmail.com

Abstract

Using a passive tracer, entrainment is studied in cloud-resolving simulations of deep convection in radiative–convective equilibrium. It is found that the convective flux of undiluted parcels decays with height exponentially, indicating a constant probability per vertical distance of mixing with environmental air. This probability per distance is sufficiently large that undiluted updrafts are negligible above a height of 4–5 km and virtually absent above 10 km. These results are shown to be independent of the horizontal grid size within the range of 3.2 km to 100 m. Plumes that do reach the tropopause are found to be highly diluted.

An equivalent potential temperature is defined that is exactly conserved for all reversible adiabatic transformations, including those with ice. Using this conserved variable, it is shown that the latent heat of fusion (from both freezing and deposition) causes only a small increase in the level of neutral buoyancy near the tropopause. In fact, when taken to sufficiently low pressures, a parcel with an ice phase ends up colder than it would without an ice phase. Nevertheless, the contribution from fusion to a parcel’s kinetic energy is quite large.

Using an ensemble of tracers, information is encoded in parcels at the cloud base and decoded where the parcel is observed in the free troposphere. Using this technique, clouds at the tropopause are diagnosed for their cloud-base temperature, specific humidity, and vertical velocity. Using these as the initial values for a Lagrangian parcel model, it is shown that fusion provides the kinetic energy required for diluted parcels to reach the tropopause.

Corresponding author address: David M. Romps, Harvard University, 416 Geological Museum, 24 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA 02138. Email: davidromps@gmail.com

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