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On the Initiation of an Isolated Heavy-Rain-Producing Storm near the Central Urban Area of Beijing Metropolitan Region

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  • 1 Key Laboratory of Cloud-Precipitation Physics and Severe Storms (LACS), Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
  • | 2 Key Laboratory of Cloud-Precipitation Physics and Severe Storms (LACS), Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, and Collaborative Innovation Center on Forecast and Evaluation of Meteorological Disasters, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China
  • | 3 State Key Laboratory of Severe Weather, Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, Beijing, China, and Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland
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Abstract

An isolated heavy-rain-producing thunderstorm was unexpectedly initiated in the afternoon of 9 August 2011 near the central urban area of the Beijing metropolitan region (BMR), which occurred at some distance from BMR’s northwestern mountains and two preexisting mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) to the west and north, respectively. An observational analysis shows the presence of unfavorable quasigeostrophic conditions but a favorable regional environment for the convective initiation (CI) of thunderstorms. A nested-grid cloud-resolving model simulation of the case with the finest 1.333-km resolution is performed to examine the CI of the thunderstorm and its subsequent growth. Results reveal that the growth of the mixed boundary layer, enhanced by the urban heat island (UHI) effects, accounts for the formation of a thin layer of clouds at the boundary layer top at the CI site and nearby locations as well as on the upslope sides of the mountains. It takes about 36 min for the latent-heating-driven updraft to penetrate through a 1-km “lid” layer above before the formation of the thunderstorm. However, this storm may not take place without sustained low-level convergence of a prevailing southerly flow with a northerly flow ahead of a cold outflow boundary associated with the northern MCS. The latter is driven by the latent heating of the shallow layer of clouds during the earlier CI stage and then a cold mesohigh underneath the northern MCS. This study indicates the important roles of the urban effects, mountain morphology, and convectively generated pressure perturbations in determining the CI location and timing of isolated thunderstorms during the summer months.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Xiaopeng Cui, Key Laboratory of Cloud-Precipitation Physics and Severe Storms (LACS), Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, China. E-mail: xpcui@mail.iap.ac.cn

Abstract

An isolated heavy-rain-producing thunderstorm was unexpectedly initiated in the afternoon of 9 August 2011 near the central urban area of the Beijing metropolitan region (BMR), which occurred at some distance from BMR’s northwestern mountains and two preexisting mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) to the west and north, respectively. An observational analysis shows the presence of unfavorable quasigeostrophic conditions but a favorable regional environment for the convective initiation (CI) of thunderstorms. A nested-grid cloud-resolving model simulation of the case with the finest 1.333-km resolution is performed to examine the CI of the thunderstorm and its subsequent growth. Results reveal that the growth of the mixed boundary layer, enhanced by the urban heat island (UHI) effects, accounts for the formation of a thin layer of clouds at the boundary layer top at the CI site and nearby locations as well as on the upslope sides of the mountains. It takes about 36 min for the latent-heating-driven updraft to penetrate through a 1-km “lid” layer above before the formation of the thunderstorm. However, this storm may not take place without sustained low-level convergence of a prevailing southerly flow with a northerly flow ahead of a cold outflow boundary associated with the northern MCS. The latter is driven by the latent heating of the shallow layer of clouds during the earlier CI stage and then a cold mesohigh underneath the northern MCS. This study indicates the important roles of the urban effects, mountain morphology, and convectively generated pressure perturbations in determining the CI location and timing of isolated thunderstorms during the summer months.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Xiaopeng Cui, Key Laboratory of Cloud-Precipitation Physics and Severe Storms (LACS), Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, China. E-mail: xpcui@mail.iap.ac.cn
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