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A Lagrangian View of Moisture Dynamics during DYNAMO

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  • 1 Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • 2 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, Florida
  • 3 NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Columbia University, New York, New York
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Abstract

Column water vapor (CWV) is studied using data from the Dynamics of the Madden–Julian Oscillation (DYNAMO) field experiment. A distinctive moist mode in tropical CWV probability distributions motivates the work. The Lagrangian CWV tendency (LCT) leaves together the compensating tendencies from phase change and vertical advection, quantities that cannot be measured accurately by themselves, to emphasize their small residual, which governs evolution. The slope of LCT versus CWV suggests that the combined effects of phase changes and vertical advection act as a robust positive feedback on CWV variations, while evaporation adds a broadscale positive tendency. Analyzed diabatic heating profiles become deeper and stronger as CWV increases. Stratiform heating is found to accompany Lagrangian drying at high CWV, but its association with deep convection makes the mean LCT positive at high CWV. Lower-tropospheric wind convergence is found in high-CWV air masses, acting to shrink their area in time. When ECMWF heating profile indices and S-Pol and TRMM radar data are binned jointly by CWV and LCT, bottom-heavy heating associated with shallow and congestus convection is found in columns transitioning through Lagrangian moistening into the humid, high-rain-rate mode of the CWV distribution near 50–55 mm, while nonraining columns and columns with widespread stratiform precipitation are preferentially associated with Lagrangian drying. Interpolated sounding-array data produce substantial errors in LCT budgets, because horizontal advection is inaccurate without satellite input to constrain horizontal gradients.

Corresponding author address: Walter M. Hannah, Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Campus Box 8208, Raleigh, NC 27695. E-mail: walter@hannahlab.org

This article is included in the DYNAMO/CINDY/AMIE/LASP: Processes, Dynamics, and Prediction of MJO Initiation special collection.

Abstract

Column water vapor (CWV) is studied using data from the Dynamics of the Madden–Julian Oscillation (DYNAMO) field experiment. A distinctive moist mode in tropical CWV probability distributions motivates the work. The Lagrangian CWV tendency (LCT) leaves together the compensating tendencies from phase change and vertical advection, quantities that cannot be measured accurately by themselves, to emphasize their small residual, which governs evolution. The slope of LCT versus CWV suggests that the combined effects of phase changes and vertical advection act as a robust positive feedback on CWV variations, while evaporation adds a broadscale positive tendency. Analyzed diabatic heating profiles become deeper and stronger as CWV increases. Stratiform heating is found to accompany Lagrangian drying at high CWV, but its association with deep convection makes the mean LCT positive at high CWV. Lower-tropospheric wind convergence is found in high-CWV air masses, acting to shrink their area in time. When ECMWF heating profile indices and S-Pol and TRMM radar data are binned jointly by CWV and LCT, bottom-heavy heating associated with shallow and congestus convection is found in columns transitioning through Lagrangian moistening into the humid, high-rain-rate mode of the CWV distribution near 50–55 mm, while nonraining columns and columns with widespread stratiform precipitation are preferentially associated with Lagrangian drying. Interpolated sounding-array data produce substantial errors in LCT budgets, because horizontal advection is inaccurate without satellite input to constrain horizontal gradients.

Corresponding author address: Walter M. Hannah, Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Campus Box 8208, Raleigh, NC 27695. E-mail: walter@hannahlab.org

This article is included in the DYNAMO/CINDY/AMIE/LASP: Processes, Dynamics, and Prediction of MJO Initiation special collection.

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