Low-level Mesoscale and Cloud-scale Interactions Promoting Deep Convection Initiation

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  • 1 a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington,
  • | 2 b University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado,
  • | 3 c Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere and NOAA/NWS Operations Proving Ground, Kansas City, Missouri
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Abstract

Data from scanning radars, radiosondes, and vertical profilers deployed during three field campaigns are analyzed to study interactions between cloud-scale updrafts associated with initiating deep moist convection and the surrounding environment. Three cases are analyzed in which the radar networks permitted dual-Doppler wind retrievals in clear air preceding and during the onset of surface precipitation. These observations capture the evolution of: i) the mesoscale and boundary layer flow, and ii) low-level updrafts associated with deep moist convection initiation (CI) events yielding sustained or short-lived precipitating storms.

The elimination of convective inhibition did not distinguish between sustained and unsustained CI events, though the vertical distribution of convective available potential energy may have played a role. The clearest signal differentiating the initiation of sustained versus unsustained precipitating deep convection was the depth of the low-level horizontal wind convergence associated with the mesoscale flow feature triggering CI, a sharp surface wind shift boundary or orographic upslope flow. The depth of the boundary layer relative to the height of the LFC failed to be a consistent indicator of CI potential. Widths of the earliest detectable low-level updrafts associated with sustained precipitating deep convection were ~3-5 km, larger than updrafts associated with surrounding boundary layer turbulence (~1-3-km wide). It is hypothesized that updrafts of this larger size are important for initiating cells to survive the destructive effects of buoyancy dilution via entrainment.

Corresponding author: James N. Marquis, james.marquis@pnnl.gov

This article is included in the RELAMPAGO-CACTI: High Impact Weather in Subtropical South America Special Collection.

This article is included in the Plains Elevated Convection At Night (PECAN) Special Collection.

Abstract

Data from scanning radars, radiosondes, and vertical profilers deployed during three field campaigns are analyzed to study interactions between cloud-scale updrafts associated with initiating deep moist convection and the surrounding environment. Three cases are analyzed in which the radar networks permitted dual-Doppler wind retrievals in clear air preceding and during the onset of surface precipitation. These observations capture the evolution of: i) the mesoscale and boundary layer flow, and ii) low-level updrafts associated with deep moist convection initiation (CI) events yielding sustained or short-lived precipitating storms.

The elimination of convective inhibition did not distinguish between sustained and unsustained CI events, though the vertical distribution of convective available potential energy may have played a role. The clearest signal differentiating the initiation of sustained versus unsustained precipitating deep convection was the depth of the low-level horizontal wind convergence associated with the mesoscale flow feature triggering CI, a sharp surface wind shift boundary or orographic upslope flow. The depth of the boundary layer relative to the height of the LFC failed to be a consistent indicator of CI potential. Widths of the earliest detectable low-level updrafts associated with sustained precipitating deep convection were ~3-5 km, larger than updrafts associated with surrounding boundary layer turbulence (~1-3-km wide). It is hypothesized that updrafts of this larger size are important for initiating cells to survive the destructive effects of buoyancy dilution via entrainment.

Corresponding author: James N. Marquis, james.marquis@pnnl.gov

This article is included in the RELAMPAGO-CACTI: High Impact Weather in Subtropical South America Special Collection.

This article is included in the Plains Elevated Convection At Night (PECAN) Special Collection.

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