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Observations of a Super Cloud Cluster Accompanied by Synoptic-Scale Eastward-Propagating Precipitating Systems over the Indian Ocean

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  • 1 Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Yokosuka, Japan
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Abstract

The multiscale structure of a super cloud cluster (SCC) over the equatorial Indian Ocean, observed in November and December 2006, was investigated using data from satellite microwave sensors and surface-based radars. The smaller-scale structure of this SCC was marked by a complicated relationship between rainfall systems and upper-tropospheric cloud shields, which moved eastward and westward, respectively, with a cycle of 2–4 days. In the analyses, attention was given to the structure of slow eastward-propagating (5–11 m s−1) precipitating systems and related synoptic-scale (∼2000 km) disturbances. A case study of one of the systems revealed that it consisted of several lines of convective cells with a depth that was usually shallower than 10 km unless the cells encountered the westward-moving cloud shields. The environment of the convective lines was characterized by persistent unstable conditions with an increase of the westerly flow in the lower troposphere, suggesting the existence of a synoptic-scale upward motion. Composite analyses revealed that each rainfall system formed in a region of zonal flow convergence near the surface and divergence near 300 hPa. The vertical temperature structure tilted westward with height below this pressure level and eastward aloft, similar to that of a convectively coupled Kelvin wave. These results suggest that a SCC involves a group of synoptic-scale shallow waves propagating eastward. An additional analysis over the western Pacific also showed the predominance of eastward propagation in a SCC, demonstrating the advantage of satellite microwave sensors over infrared ones in monitoring the multiscale structure of tropical convection.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Hiroyuki Yamada, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, 2-15 Natsushima-cho, Yokosuka 237-0061, Japan. Email: yamada@jamstec.go.jp

Abstract

The multiscale structure of a super cloud cluster (SCC) over the equatorial Indian Ocean, observed in November and December 2006, was investigated using data from satellite microwave sensors and surface-based radars. The smaller-scale structure of this SCC was marked by a complicated relationship between rainfall systems and upper-tropospheric cloud shields, which moved eastward and westward, respectively, with a cycle of 2–4 days. In the analyses, attention was given to the structure of slow eastward-propagating (5–11 m s−1) precipitating systems and related synoptic-scale (∼2000 km) disturbances. A case study of one of the systems revealed that it consisted of several lines of convective cells with a depth that was usually shallower than 10 km unless the cells encountered the westward-moving cloud shields. The environment of the convective lines was characterized by persistent unstable conditions with an increase of the westerly flow in the lower troposphere, suggesting the existence of a synoptic-scale upward motion. Composite analyses revealed that each rainfall system formed in a region of zonal flow convergence near the surface and divergence near 300 hPa. The vertical temperature structure tilted westward with height below this pressure level and eastward aloft, similar to that of a convectively coupled Kelvin wave. These results suggest that a SCC involves a group of synoptic-scale shallow waves propagating eastward. An additional analysis over the western Pacific also showed the predominance of eastward propagation in a SCC, demonstrating the advantage of satellite microwave sensors over infrared ones in monitoring the multiscale structure of tropical convection.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Hiroyuki Yamada, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, 2-15 Natsushima-cho, Yokosuka 237-0061, Japan. Email: yamada@jamstec.go.jp

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