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Xiaomin Chen
and
Frank D. Marks

Abstract

Development of accurate planetary boundary layer (PBL) parameterizations in high-wind conditions is crucial for improving tropical cyclone (TC) forecasts. Given that eddy-diffusivity mass-flux (EDMF)-type PBL schemes are designed for nonhurricane boundary layers, this study examines the uncertainty of MF parameterizations in hurricane conditions by performing three-dimensional idealized simulations. Results show that the surface-driven MF plays a dominant role in the nonlocal turbulent fluxes and is comparable to the magnitude of downgradient momentum fluxes in the middle portion of TC boundary layers outside the radius of maximum wind (RMW); in contrast, the stratocumulus-top-driven MF is comparably negligible and exerts a marginal impact on TC simulations. To represent the impact of vertical wind shear on damping rising thermal plumes, a new approach of tapering surface-driven MF based on the surface stability parameter is proposed, aiming to retain the surface-driven MF only in unstable boundary layers. Compared to a traditional approach of MF tapering based on 10-m wind speeds, the new approach is physically more appealing as both shear and buoyancy forcings are considered and the width of the effective zone responds to diurnal variations of surface buoyancy forcing. Compared to the experiments retaining the original MF components, using either approach of MF tapering can lead to a stronger and more compact inner core due to enhanced boundary layer inflow outside the RMW; nevertheless, the radius of gale-force wind and inflow layer depth are only notably reduced using the new approach. Comparison to observations and further discussions on MF parameterizations in high-wind conditions are provided.

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Isabelle Bunge
,
Adam Sobel
,
Michela Biasutti
, and
Shuguang Wang

Abstract

Surface winds and precipitation over the tropical oceans are related to sea surface temperature (SST) through multiple mechanisms. Greater SST is associated with greater conditional instability, which in turn is more conducive to deep convection. The associated mass and flow responses can extend to the surface, via associated pressure gradients imprinted on the top of the planetary boundary layer (PBL). SST also influences surface pressure and wind directly through its control over PBL temperature, as explained by Lindzen and Nigam. The authors examine the relative magnitudes of these two influences over the eastern tropical Pacific on subseasonal precipitation variability during northern summer, when and where SST gradients are largest and the direct influence via PBL temperature is expected to be strongest. Geopotential at 1000 hPa is partitioned into two components: the geopotential at the PBL top (the PBL top is chosen to be 850 hPa, supported by an analysis of the vertical structure of geopotential and temperature) and the PBL thickness. These fields are composited on quintiles of daily ITCZ precipitation both with and without a high-pass filter that isolates subseasonal time scales. The PBL thickness varies little between the highest and lowest precipitation quintiles, while the PBL top geopotential varies much more. This supports a view in which the direct contribution of SST to the surface pressure and flow fields, including the associated PBL convergence over sharp SST maxima, can be viewed as a steady forcing on the rest of the column, while free-tropospheric transients contribute most of the variability associated with precipitation on subseasonal time scales.

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Emily de Jong
,
Eliot Quon
, and
Shashank Yellapantula

Abstract

Low-level jets (LLJs), in which the wind speed attains a local maximum at low altitudes, have been found to occur in the U.S. mid-Atlantic offshore, a region of active wind energy deployment as of 2023. In contrast to widely studied regions such as the U.S. southern Great Plains and the California coastline, the mechanisms that underlie LLJs in the U.S. mid-Atlantic are poorly understood. This work analyzes floating lidar data from buoys deployed in the New York Bight to understand the characteristics and causes of coastal LLJs in the region. Application of the Hilbert–Huang transform, a frequency analysis technique, to LLJ case studies reveals that mid-Atlantic jets frequently occur during times of adjustment in synoptic-scale motions, such as large-scale temperature and pressure gradients or frontal passages, and that they do not coincide with motions at the native inertial oscillation frequency. Subsequent analysis with theoretical models of inertial oscillation and thermal winds further reveals that these jets can form in the stationary geostrophic wind profile from horizontal temperature gradients alone—in contrast to canonical LLJs, which arise from low-level inertial motions. Here, inertial oscillation can further modulate the intensity and altitude of the wind speed maximum. Statistical evidence indicates that these oscillations arise from stable stratification and the associated frictional decoupling due to warmer air flowing over a cold sea surface during the springtime land–sea breeze. These results improve our conceptual understanding of mid-Atlantic jets and may be used to better predict low-level wind speed maxima.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this work is to identify and characterize the atmospheric mechanisms that result in an occasional low-level maximum in the wind speed off the U.S. mid-Atlantic coastline. Our findings show that these low-level jets form due to horizontal temperature gradients arising from fronts and synoptic systems, as well as from the land–sea breeze that forces warmer air over the cold ocean surface. This work aids predictability of such jets, improves our understanding of this coastal environment, and has implications for future deployment of offshore wind energy in this region.

Open access
Brandon Wolding
,
Adam Rydbeck
,
Juliana Dias
,
Fiaz Ahmed
,
Maria Gehne
,
George Kiladis
,
Emily M. Riley Dellaripa
,
Xingchao Chen
, and
Isabel L. McCoy

Abstract

An energy budget combining atmospheric moist static energy (MSE) and upper ocean heat content (OHC) is used to examine the processes impacting day-to-day convective variability in the tropical Indian and western Pacific Oceans. Feedbacks arising from atmospheric and oceanic transport processes, surface fluxes, and radiation drive the cyclical amplification and decay of convection around suppressed and enhanced convective equilibrium states, referred to as shallow and deep convective discharge–recharge (D–R) cycles, respectively. The shallow convective D–R cycle is characterized by alternating enhancements of shallow cumulus and stratocumulus, often in the presence of extensive cirrus clouds. The deep convective D–R cycle is characterized by sequential increases in shallow cumulus, congestus, narrow deep precipitation, wide deep precipitation, a mix of detached anvil and altostratus and altocumulus, and once again shallow cumulus cloud types. Transitions from the shallow to deep D–R cycle are favored by a positive “column process” feedback, while discharge of convective instability and OHC by mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) contributes to transitions from the deep to shallow D–R cycle. Variability in the processes impacting MSE is comparable in magnitude to, but considerably more balanced than, variability in the processes impacting OHC. Variations in the quantity of atmosphere–ocean coupled static energy (MSE + OHC) result primarily from atmospheric and oceanic transport processes, but are mainly realized as changes in OHC. MCSs are unique in their ability to rapidly discharge both lower-tropospheric convective instability and OHC.

Open access
Aude Champouillon
,
Catherine Rio
, and
Fleur Couvreux

Abstract

An idealized case of gradual oceanic transition from shallow to deep convection is simulated at three different horizontal resolutions: one that resolves most of the turbulent eddies, one typical of cloud-resolving models, and one typical of general circulation models. The former serves as a reference and allows the identification of clouds as individual objects, distinguishing shallow cumulus, congestus, and cumulonimbus. At coarser resolutions, parameterizations of convection are included and assessed, with a particular focus on congestus clouds and precipitation associated with shallow convective clouds. Congestus clouds are found to contribute the most to turbulent transport during the transition, while occupying a volume comparable to shallow cumulus and cumulonimbus. Kilometer-scale horizontal resolutions prove to be insufficient to resolve congestus, and parameterization schemes of shallow and deep convection are not necessarily appropriate to represent those intermediate clouds. The representation of rainfall in the shallow convection scheme plays a key role in the transition. Sensitivity experiments show that enhanced rainfall inhibits convection in single-column simulations, while it favors resolved convection and spatial heterogeneities in three-dimensional simulations with kilometer-scale resolution. Results highlight the need for an appropriate parameterization of congestus in both kilometer-scale and large-scale models. The case study and the methods presented here are proposed as a useful framework to evaluate models and their parameterizations in a shallow-to-deep convection transition context.

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Xuanyu Chen
,
Juliana Dias
,
Brandon Wolding
,
Robert Pincus
,
Charlotte DeMott
,
Gary Wick
,
Elizabeth J. Thompson
, and
Chris W. Fairall

Abstract

The impact of weak submeso- to mesoscale SST anomalies on daily averaged trade cumulus cloudiness is investigated using satellite observations that have been validated against shipboard measurements from the Atlantic Tradewind Ocean–Atmosphere Mesoscale Interaction Campaign (ATOMIC). Daily spatial SST anomalies are identified from GOES–POES Blended SST analysis within a 10° × 10° region during January and February 2020. Daily averaged cloud fraction and 10-m neutral wind from satellite observations and reanalysis are composited over the identified SST features, using a common coordinate system based on the near-surface background wind directions. Composites of satellite cloud fraction show a statistically significant increase of cloudiness over the SST warm core with a reduction of cloudiness away from it. These responses are largely the same but with opposite signs over SST cold anomalies, suggesting that spatial heterogeneity in SST can locally imprint on daily cloud fraction. Composites of daily 10-m wind speed and wind convergence anomalies from both satellite and reanalysis show that surface wind speed is increased over SST warm anomalies, implying enhanced turbulence over warmer SSTs. Correspondingly, the surface convergence anomalies in these composites are located around the maximum downwind SST gradient, offset downwind from the cloudiness anomalies. These results indicate that the response of daily cloudiness to these SST anomalies is more likely generated by spatial variability of surface-driven turbulence and surface fluxes rather than that of surface or boundary layer convergence.

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Lingwei Meng
and
Stephen T. Garner

Abstract

Tropical cyclone (TC) genesis is initiated by convective precursors or “seeds” and influenced by environmental conditions along the seed-to-TC trajectories. Genesis potential indices (GPIs) provide a simple way to evaluate TC genesis likelihood from environmental conditions but have two limitations that may introduce bias. First, the globally fixed GPIs fail to represent interbasin differences in the relationship between environments and genesis. Second, existing GPIs are only functions of local environmental conditions, whereas nonlocal factors may have a significant impact. We address the first limitation by constructing basin- and time-scale-specific GPIs (local-GPIs) over the eastern North Pacific (ENP) and North Atlantic (NA) using Poisson regression. A sequential feature selection (SFS) algorithm identifies vertical wind shear and a heating condition as leading factors controlling TC genesis in the ENP and the NA, respectively. However, only a slight improvement in performance is achieved, motivating us to tackle the second limitation with a novel trajectory-based GPI (traj-GPI). We merge adjacent nonlocal environments into each grid point based on observed seed trajectory densities. The seed activity, driven mainly by upward motion, and the transition to TCs, controlled primarily by vertical wind shear or heating conditions, are captured simultaneously in the traj-GPI, yielding a better performance than the original GPIs. This study illustrates the importance of seed activity in modeling TC genesis and identifies key environmental factors that influence the process of TC genesis at different stages.

Significance Statement

The genesis potential index (GPI) is an effective tool for modeling the likelihood of tropical cyclone (TC) genesis for a given time and location. This study reveals that existing GPIs are primarily biased by a lack of information about nonlocal TC seed activity, since they are based only on local large-scale environmental variables. According to our study, upward motion and vertical wind shear are the most influential environmental factors in seed genesis and the transition from seed to TC, respectively. Based on the observed seed trajectories, we build trajectory-based GPIs that include the information from seed activity. Spatiotemporal performances of TC genesis are significantly improved over the original GPIs.

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Shanhe Liu
,
Kapil D. Sindhu
, and
Daniel J. Kirshbaum

Abstract

Boundary layer convergence lines (CLs) are highly effective at deep-convection initiation (DCI), suggesting that their associated updraft properties differ from those of more widespread turbulent updrafts in the planetary boundary layer (PBL). This study exploits observations at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Southern Great Plains (ARM SGP) observatory in Oklahoma from 2011 to 2016 to quantify CL properties and their relation to turbulent PBL eddies preceding CL arrival. Two independent methods for estimating CL properties are developed at two locations in the SGP region, both relying on the assumption of a 2D circulation in the CL-normal plane but using different combinations of instruments. The first (the radar method) relies mainly on scanning radar data and is applied to 61 CLs passing near a high-resolution scanning radar based in Nardin, Oklahoma, while the second (the surface method) relies mainly on surface wind data and is applied to 68 CLs crossing the SGP facility in nearby Lamont, Oklahoma. Mean daytime (1000–1900 LST) CL width (∼2 km) and convergence magnitude (∼0.003 s−1) are similar for both methods, and mean daytime CL depth is ∼0.75 km. The two methods disagree at night (0000–1000 and 1900–2400 LST), where the surface method estimates wider and weaker CLs than the radar method. This difference may stem from the radar beam overshooting the shallow, highly stable nocturnal PBL. The largest CL updrafts are slightly wider (∼20%) and stronger (∼40%) than the largest PBL updrafts in the pre-CL period, generating 50%–100% larger updraft mass fluxes over most of the PBL depth.

Significance Statement

Deep convection is commonly initiated by boundary layer convergence lines (CLs), which are associated with intense surface-based wind convergence and strong updrafts that may lift air to saturation. Although CLs form regularly, they are far less common than ordinary, short-lived turbulent thermals in the daytime boundary layer. To better understand why CLs are so effective at deep-convection initiation, we observationally quantify their morphologies and strengths and compare these properties to those of surrounding turbulent updrafts. Perhaps surprisingly, the CLs are found to exhibit only slightly larger scales and strengths as the turbulent updrafts. Although these marginal increases help to explain the preference for storms to initiate along CLs, they likely are not the whole story.

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David H. Marsico
,
Joseph A. Biello
, and
Matthew R. Igel

Abstract

The so-called traditional approximation, wherein the component of the Coriolis force proportional to the cosine of latitude is ignored, is frequently made in order to simplify the equations of atmospheric circulation. For velocity fields whose vertical component is comparable to their horizontal component (such as convective circulations), and in the tropics where the sine of latitude vanishes, the traditional approximation is not justified. We introduce a framework for studying the effect of diabatic heating on circulations in the presence of both traditional and nontraditional terms in the Coriolis force. The framework is intended to describe steady convective circulations on an f plane in the presence of radiation and momentum damping. We derive a single elliptic equation for the horizontal velocity potential, which is a generalization of the weak temperature gradient (WTG) approximation. The elliptic operator depends on latitude, radiative damping, and momentum damping coefficients. We show how all other dynamical fields can be diagnosed from this velocity potential; the horizontal velocity induced by the Coriolis force has a particularly simple expression in terms of the velocity potential. Limiting examples occur at the equator, where only the nontraditional terms are present, at the poles, where only the traditional terms appear, and in the absence of radiative damping where the WTG approximation is recovered. We discuss how the framework will be used to construct dynamical, nonlinear convective models, in order to diagnose their consequent upscale momentum and temperature fluxes.

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Stamen I. Dolaptchiev
,
Peter Spichtinger
,
Manuel Baumgartner
, and
Ulrich Achatz

Abstract

We present an asymptotic approach for the systematic investigation of the effect of gravity waves (GWs) on ice clouds formed through homogeneous nucleation. In particular, we consider high- and midfrequency GWs in the tropopause region driving the formation of ice clouds, modeled with a double-moment bulk ice microphysics scheme. The asymptotic approach allows for identifying reduced equations for self-consistent description of the ice dynamics forced by GWs including the effects of diffusional growth and nucleation of ice crystals. Further, corresponding analytical solutions for a monochromatic GW are derived under a single-parcel approximation. The results provide a simple expression for the nucleated number of ice crystals in a nucleation event. It is demonstrated that the asymptotic solutions capture the dynamics of the full ice model and accurately predict the nucleated ice crystal number. The present approach is extended to allow for superposition of GWs, as well as for variable ice crystal mean mass in the deposition. Implications of the results for an improved representation of GW variability in cirrus parameterizations are discussed.

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