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Why Does Deep Convection Have Different Sensitivities to Temperature Perturbations in the Lower versus Upper Troposphere?

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  • 1 Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • | 2 Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
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Abstract

Previous studies have documented that deep convection responds more strongly to above-the-cloud-base temperature perturbations in the lower troposphere than to those in the upper troposphere, a behavior that is important to the dynamics of large-scale moist flows, such as convectively coupled waves. A number of factors may contribute to this differing sensitivity, including differences in buoyancy, vertical velocity, and/or liquid water content in cloud updrafts in the lower versus upper troposphere. Quantifying the contributions from these factors can help to guide the development of convective parameterization schemes. We tackle this issue by tracking Lagrangian particles embedded in cloud-resolving simulations within a linear response framework. The results show that both the differences in updraft buoyancy and vertical velocity play a significant role, with the vertical velocity being the more important, and the effect of liquid water content is only secondary compared to the other two factors. These results indicate that cloud updraft vertical velocities need to be correctly modeled in convective parameterization schemes in order to properly account for the differing convective sensitivities to temperature perturbations at different heights of the free troposphere.

© 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: Yang Tian, yangtian@fas.harvard.edu

Abstract

Previous studies have documented that deep convection responds more strongly to above-the-cloud-base temperature perturbations in the lower troposphere than to those in the upper troposphere, a behavior that is important to the dynamics of large-scale moist flows, such as convectively coupled waves. A number of factors may contribute to this differing sensitivity, including differences in buoyancy, vertical velocity, and/or liquid water content in cloud updrafts in the lower versus upper troposphere. Quantifying the contributions from these factors can help to guide the development of convective parameterization schemes. We tackle this issue by tracking Lagrangian particles embedded in cloud-resolving simulations within a linear response framework. The results show that both the differences in updraft buoyancy and vertical velocity play a significant role, with the vertical velocity being the more important, and the effect of liquid water content is only secondary compared to the other two factors. These results indicate that cloud updraft vertical velocities need to be correctly modeled in convective parameterization schemes in order to properly account for the differing convective sensitivities to temperature perturbations at different heights of the free troposphere.

© 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: Yang Tian, yangtian@fas.harvard.edu
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