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The Implications of an Idealized Large-Scale Circulation for Mechanical Work Done by Tropical Convection

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
  • | 2 Climate, National Centre for Atmospheric Science, and Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
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Abstract

A thermodynamic analysis is presented of an overturning circulation simulated by two cloud-resolving models, coupled by a weak temperature gradient parameterization. Taken together, they represent two separated regions over different sea surface temperatures, and the coupling represents an idealized large-scale circulation such as the Walker circulation. It is demonstrated that a thermodynamic budget linking net heat input to the generation of mechanical energy can be partitioned into contributions from the large-scale interaction between the two regions, as represented by the weak temperature gradient approximation, and from convective motions in the active warm region and the suppressed cool region. Model results imply that such thermodynamic diagnostics for the aggregate system are barely affected by the strength of the coupling, even its introduction, or by the SST contrast between the regions. This indicates that the weak temperature gradient parameterization does not introduce anomalous thermodynamic behavior. We find that the vertical kinetic energy associated with the large-scale circulation is more than three orders of magnitude smaller than the typical vertical kinetic energy in each region. However, even with very weak coupling circulations, the contrast between the thermodynamic budget terms for the suppressed and active regions is strong and is relatively insensitive to the degree of the coupling. Additionally, scaling arguments are developed for the relative values of the terms in the mechanical energy budget.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Jan A. Kamieniecki, j.a.kamieniecki@pgr.reading.ac.uk

Abstract

A thermodynamic analysis is presented of an overturning circulation simulated by two cloud-resolving models, coupled by a weak temperature gradient parameterization. Taken together, they represent two separated regions over different sea surface temperatures, and the coupling represents an idealized large-scale circulation such as the Walker circulation. It is demonstrated that a thermodynamic budget linking net heat input to the generation of mechanical energy can be partitioned into contributions from the large-scale interaction between the two regions, as represented by the weak temperature gradient approximation, and from convective motions in the active warm region and the suppressed cool region. Model results imply that such thermodynamic diagnostics for the aggregate system are barely affected by the strength of the coupling, even its introduction, or by the SST contrast between the regions. This indicates that the weak temperature gradient parameterization does not introduce anomalous thermodynamic behavior. We find that the vertical kinetic energy associated with the large-scale circulation is more than three orders of magnitude smaller than the typical vertical kinetic energy in each region. However, even with very weak coupling circulations, the contrast between the thermodynamic budget terms for the suppressed and active regions is strong and is relatively insensitive to the degree of the coupling. Additionally, scaling arguments are developed for the relative values of the terms in the mechanical energy budget.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Jan A. Kamieniecki, j.a.kamieniecki@pgr.reading.ac.uk
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