A Global Climatology of Diabatic Heating in Tropical Easterly Waves

Carrie Lewis-Merritt aDepartment of Geography and Atmospheric Science, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

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Justin P. Stachnik aDepartment of Geography and Atmospheric Science, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

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Margaret A. Hollis bSchool of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Elinor R. Martin bSchool of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Rachel R. McCrary cNSF National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

Tropical easterly waves (TEWs) play a critical role in regulating convection and precipitation across the global tropics. TEWs act as seed disturbances for tropical cyclogenesis, serve as an essential component in monsoon precipitation, and produce large amounts of rainfall and diabatic heating that can strongly affect the large-scale circulation. To help improve our knowledge of a more elusive type of tropical wave, we use satellite and reanalysis estimates of the diabatic heating associated with TEWs that are identified by a tracking algorithm based on low-level curvature vorticity. This study uses the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) version 6 convective–stratiform heating (CSH) and spectral latent heating (SLH) orbital products to create a global climatology (1998–2015) of TEW diabatic heating. TEW-specific composites for the satellite-observed vertical structure of diabatic heating are compared to similar terms from MERRA-2 across a variety of tropical regions. There are striking differences between the reanalysis and satellite heating with MERRA-2 having much stronger background heating, especially at low levels. Both the satellite-observed and reanalysis heating profiles show stronger midlevel heating associated with TEWs relative to the unconditional background. Similar patterns of mid- and bottom-heaviness emerge in two-dimensional composites of TEW latent heating as stronger heating rates and percent contributions to the background are generally higher at 500 hPa than at 850 hPa. Although TEWs only represent a few percent of the background heating across the global tropics, they comprise 30%–50% of the heating in the prominent TEW tracks over the northeastern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Carrie Lewis-Merritt, clewismerritt@ku.edu

Abstract

Tropical easterly waves (TEWs) play a critical role in regulating convection and precipitation across the global tropics. TEWs act as seed disturbances for tropical cyclogenesis, serve as an essential component in monsoon precipitation, and produce large amounts of rainfall and diabatic heating that can strongly affect the large-scale circulation. To help improve our knowledge of a more elusive type of tropical wave, we use satellite and reanalysis estimates of the diabatic heating associated with TEWs that are identified by a tracking algorithm based on low-level curvature vorticity. This study uses the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) version 6 convective–stratiform heating (CSH) and spectral latent heating (SLH) orbital products to create a global climatology (1998–2015) of TEW diabatic heating. TEW-specific composites for the satellite-observed vertical structure of diabatic heating are compared to similar terms from MERRA-2 across a variety of tropical regions. There are striking differences between the reanalysis and satellite heating with MERRA-2 having much stronger background heating, especially at low levels. Both the satellite-observed and reanalysis heating profiles show stronger midlevel heating associated with TEWs relative to the unconditional background. Similar patterns of mid- and bottom-heaviness emerge in two-dimensional composites of TEW latent heating as stronger heating rates and percent contributions to the background are generally higher at 500 hPa than at 850 hPa. Although TEWs only represent a few percent of the background heating across the global tropics, they comprise 30%–50% of the heating in the prominent TEW tracks over the northeastern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Carrie Lewis-Merritt, clewismerritt@ku.edu
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