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Qiu Yang
,
L. Ruby Leung
,
Zhe Feng
, and
Xingchao Chen

Abstract

Mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) bring large amounts of rainfall and strong wind gusts to the midlatitude land regions, with significant impacts on local weather and hydrologic cycle. However, weather and climate models face a huge challenge in accurately modeling the MCS life cycle and the associated precipitation, highlighting an urgent need for a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of MCS initiation and propagation. From a theoretical perspective, a suitable model to capture the realistic properties of MCSs and isolate the bare-bones mechanisms for their initiation, intensification, and eastward propagation is still lacking. To simulate midlatitude MCSs over land, we develop a simple moist potential vorticity (PV) model that readily describes the interactions among PV perturbations, air moisture, and soil moisture. Multiple experiments with or without various environmental factors and external forcing are used to investigate their impacts on MCS dynamics and mesoscale circulation vertical structures. The result shows that mechanical forcing can induce lower-level updraft and cooling, providing favorable conditions for MCS initiation. A positive feedback among surface winds, evaporation rate, and air moisture similar to the wind-induced surface heat exchange over tropical ocean is found to support MCS intensification. Both background surface westerlies and vertical westerly wind shear are shown to provide favorable conditions for the eastward propagation of MCSs. Last, our result highlights the crucial role of stratiform heating in shaping mesoscale circulation response. The model should serve as a useful tool for understanding the fundamental mechanisms of MCS dynamics.

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Pragallva Barpanda
,
Stefan N. Tulich
,
Juliana Dias
, and
George N. Kiladis

Abstract

The composite structure of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) has long been known to feature pronounced Rossby gyres in the subtropical upper troposphere, whose existence can be interpreted as the forced response to convective heating anomalies in the presence of a subtropical westerly jet. The question of interest here is whether these forced gyre circulations have any subsequent effects on divergence patterns in the tropics and the Kelvin-mode component of the MJO. A nonlinear spherical shallow water model is used to investigate how the introduction of different background jet profiles affects the model’s steady-state response to an imposed MJO-like stationary thermal forcing. Results show that a stronger jet leads to a stronger Kelvin-mode response in the tropics up to a critical jet speed, along with stronger divergence anomalies in the vicinity of the forcing. To understand this behavior, additional calculations are performed in which a localized vorticity forcing is imposed in the extratropics, without any thermal forcing in the tropics. The response is once again seen to include pronounced equatorial Kelvin waves, provided the jet is of sufficient amplitude. A detailed analysis of the vorticity budget reveals that the zonal-mean zonal wind shear plays a key role in amplifying the Kelvin-mode divergent winds near the equator, with the effects of nonlinearities being of negligible importance. These results help to explain why the MJO tends to be strongest during boreal winter when the Indo-Pacific jet is typically at its strongest.

Significance Statement

The MJO is a planetary-scale convectively coupled equatorial disturbance that serves as a primary source of atmospheric predictability on intraseasonal time scales (30–90 days). Due to its dominance and spontaneous recurrence, the MJO has a significant global impact, influencing hurricanes in the tropics, storm tracks, and atmosphere blocking events in the midlatitudes, and even weather systems near the poles. Despite steady improvements in subseasonal-to-seasonal (S2S) forecast models, the MJO prediction skill has still not reached its maximum potential. The root of this challenge is partly due to our lack of understanding of how the MJO interacts with the background mean flow. In this work, we use a simple one-layer atmospheric model with idealized heating and vorticity sources to understand the impact of the subtropical jet on the MJO amplitude and its horizontal structure.

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Rusen Öktem
,
David M. Romps
, and
Adam C. Varble

Abstract

It has been proposed that air pollution increases the updraft speeds of warm-phase convective clouds by reducing their supersaturation and, thereby, enhancing their buoyancy. Observations from the GoAmazon field campaign, sampled using subjective criteria, have been offered as evidence for this warm-phase invigoration. Here, we reexamine those GoAmazon observations using objective sampling criteria and find no indication that air pollution increases warm-phase updraft speeds. In addition, the observations yield no statistically significant relationship between aerosol concentrations and either moist-convective vertical velocity or reflectivity in either the lower or upper troposphere.

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Ángel F. Adames Corraliza
and
Víctor C. Mayta

Abstract

The moist static energy (MSE) budget is widely used to understand moist atmospheric thermodynamics. However, the budget is not exact, and the accuracy of the approximations that yield it has not been examined rigorously in the context of large-scale tropical motions (horizontal scales ≥ 1000 km). A scale analysis shows that these approximations are most accurate in systems whose latent energy anomalies are considerably larger than the geopotential and kinetic energy anomalies. This condition is satisfied in systems that exhibit phase speeds and horizontal winds on the order of 10 m s−1 or less. Results from a power spectral analysis of data from the DYNAMO field campaign and ERA5 qualitatively agree with the scaling, although they indicate that the neglected terms are smaller than what the scaling suggests. A linear regression analysis of the MJO events that occurred during DYNAMO yields results that support these findings. It is suggested that the MSE budget is accurate in the tropics because motions within these latitudes are constrained to exhibit small fluctuations in geopotential and kinetic energy as a result of weak temperature gradient (WTG) balance.

Open access
Hongpei Yang
,
Yu Du
, and
Junhong Wei

Abstract

The generation of multiple wave couplets with deep tropospheric downdrafts/updrafts by convection is explored through idealized 2D moist numerical simulations as well as dry experiments with prescribed artificial latent heating. These wave couplets are capable of horizontally propagating over a long distance at a fast speed with vertical motions spanning the entire troposphere. The timing of wave generation is determined by the variation in the local heating rate, which arose from the imbalances among latent heating, nonlinear advection, and adiabatic heating/cooling. The amplitudes of wave couplets also correspond well with the strength of the local heating rate. The heat budget analysis highlights the crucial roles of both latent heating and nonlinear advection in the generation of the tropospheric wave couplets. Strong latent heating induces the thermodynamic imbalance and thus triggers waves. Meanwhile, latent heating also increases vertical motion in the source region and thus enhances nonlinear advection through transferring heat upward. Nonlinear advection, which has a comparable magnitude to latent heating in the upper troposphere, partially offsets the balancing effect of adiabatic heating/cooling, and results in a more persistent imbalance at high levels, allowing for the emission of consecutive waves even when latent heating becomes weak. In the simulation with weak nonlinear advection, fewer wave couplets are found, as the effect of latent heating is more easily offset by adiabatic cooling before it weakens.

Significance Statement

The generation of gravity waves in the troposphere by convection is of significant importance in the fields of atmospheric science and meteorology. The waves play a crucial role in the initiation and organization of convection, and the parameterization of wave momentum flux in global numerical models. This study aimed to investigate the generation of wave couplets in the troposphere through idealized numerical simulations with varying prescribed latent heating. The results showed that gravity wave couplets were generated in succession as a result of the imbalances among latent heating, nonlinear advection, and adiabatic heating/cooling. This study highlighted an important but yet complex issue of gravity waves being generated within convection by nonlinear sources other than latent heating, which had been neglected in many recent studies on the topic. These findings deepened our understanding of convectively generated gravity waves and paved the way for coupled wave–convection relationship studies.

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Rosa M. Vargas Martes
,
Ángel F. Adames Corraliza
, and
Víctor C. Mayta

Abstract

The thermodynamic processes associated with convection in tropical African and northeastern Pacific easterly waves (AEWs and PEWs, respectively) are examined on the basis of empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) and a plume buoyancy framework. Linear regression analysis reveals the relationship between temperature, moisture, buoyancy, and precipitation in EWs. Plume buoyancy is found to be highly correlated with rainfall in both AEWs and PEWs, and a near 1:1 relationship is found between a buoyancy-based diagnostic of rainfall and rainfall rates from ERA5. Close inspection of the contribution of moisture and temperature to plume buoyancy reveals that temperature and moisture contribute roughly equally to the buoyancy in AEWs, while moisture dominates the distribution of buoyancy in PEWs. A scale analysis is performed in order to understand the relative amplitudes of temperature and moisture in easterly waves. It is found that the smaller contribution of temperature to the thermodynamics of PEWs relative to AEWs is related to their slower propagation speed, which allows PEWs to more robustly adjust to weak temperature gradient (WTG) balance. The consistency of the buoyancy analysis and the scale analysis indicates that PEWs are moisture modes: waves in which water vapor plays a dominant role in their thermodynamics. AEWs, on the other hand, are mixed waves in which temperature and moisture play similar roles in their thermodynamics.

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Jaime Fernando António
and
José Antonio Aravéquia

Abstract

Here we used meteorological datasets from ERA5 to study the dynamic and thermodynamic characteristics of a SACZ event that occurred between 12 and 26 December 2013. This is an atypical SACZ episode with considerable variations in cloudiness band positioning and high rainfall amounts, causing enormous problems for society. We study this case through the Lorenz energy cycle (LEC), focusing mainly on the role of diabatic heating in energy generation and consequently in circulation aspects, analyzing the event in three stages (formation, development, and dissipation), and discussing it according to the convection localization pattern. The diabatic heat rate has a large impact on the energy generation of SACZ events at midlevels south of 24°S and below 900 hPa in the tropics. In LEC, the generation terms in the SACZ area were larger at the beginning (12–15 December) and smaller at the ending periods (23–26 December), with means of 21.23 and −7.62 W m−2, respectively. The conversion terms follow the LEC directions, except for barotropic instability [C(KE , KM ) < 0] that dominates throughout the analyzed periods. The convection area expansion to the north between 16 and 22 December was reflected by the most intense heating in the tropics and weaker barotropic instability. The friction term did not favor the event decay; therefore, we concluded that the cooling through a negative covariance between Q and T contributed to the event decay. We find that these results were largely influenced by a midlatitude wave train configuration that acted to favor the persistence, expansion, and decay of the event.

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Kamal Kant Chandrakar
,
Hugh Morrison
, and
Raymond A. Shaw

Abstract

Turbulent fluctuations of scalar and velocity fields are critical for cloud microphysical processes, e.g., droplet activation and size distribution evolution, and can therefore influence cloud radiative forcing and precipitation formation. Lagrangian and Eulerian water vapor, temperature, and supersaturation statistics are investigated in direct numerical simulations (DNS) of turbulent Rayleigh–Bénard convection in the Pi Convection Cloud Chamber to provide a foundation for parameterizing subgrid-scale fluctuations in atmospheric models. A subgrid model for water vapor and temperature variances and covariance and supersaturation variance is proposed, valid for both clear and cloudy conditions. Evaluation of phase change contributions through an a priori test using DNS data shows good performance of the model. Supersaturation is a nonlinear function of temperature and water vapor, and relative external fluxes of water vapor and heat (e.g., during entrainment-mixing and phase change) influence turbulent supersaturation fluctuations. Although supersaturation has autocorrelation and structure functions similar to the independent scalars (temperature and water vapor), the autocorrelation time scale of supersaturation differs. Relative scalar fluxes in DNS without cloud make supersaturation PDFs less skewed than the adiabatic case, where they are highly negatively skewed. However, droplet condensation changes the PDF shape response: it becomes positively skewed for the adiabatic case and negatively skewed when the sidewall relative fluxes are large. Condensation also increases correlations between water vapor and temperature in the presence of relative scalar fluxes but decreases correlations for the adiabatic case. These changes in correlation suppress supersaturation variability for the nonadiabatic cases and increase it for the adiabatic case. Implications of this work for subgrid microphysics modeling using a Lagrangian stochastic scheme are also discussed.

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Chaehyeon C. Nam
,
Michael M. Bell
, and
Dandan Tao

Abstract

The combination of moderate vertical wind shear (VWS) and dry environments can produce the most uncertain scenarios for tropical cyclone (TC) genesis and intensification. We investigated the sources of increased uncertainty of TC development under moderate VWS and dry environments using a set of Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) ensemble simulations. Statistical analysis of ensemble members for precursor events and time-lagged correlations indicates that successful TC development is dependent on a specific set of precursor events. A deficiency in any of these precursor events leads to a failure of TC intensification. The uncertainty of TC intensification can be largely attributed to the probabilistic characteristics of precursor events lining up together before TC intensification. The critical bifurcation point between successful and failed trials in these idealized simulations is the sustained vortex alignment process. Even for the failed intensification cases, most simulations showed deep organized convection, which reformed a midlevel vortex. However, for the failed cycles, the new midlevel vortex could not sustain vertical alignment with the low-level center and was carried away by VWS shortly. Under the most uncertain setup (VWS = 7.5 m s−1 and 50% moisture), the latest-developing ensemble member had seven events of tilt decreasing and increasing again that occurred during the 8 days before genesis. Some unsuccessful precursor events looked very close to the successful ones, implying limits on the intrinsic predictability for TC genesis and intensification in moderately sheared and dry environments.

Significance Statement

The aim of this study is to identify a critical bifurcation point that determines whether tropical disturbances in moderately sheared and dry environments will develop into intense storms or dissipate. When it comes to predicting the formation and strength of tropical cyclones, vertical wind shear, where the environmental wind changes with height, presents a challenging scenario. When the shear is neither too weak nor too strong, some systems manage to develop into cyclones, while others get torn apart under similar shear conditions. Understanding the differences between these outcomes remains a puzzle. Through extensive computer simulations, we have discovered a key factor that contributes to the uncertainty surrounding the alignment of the midlevel vortex with the center of the low-level vortex. These results reveal the complexity and multiple sources of uncertainty involved in forecasting tropical cyclone intensification, providing valuable insights into why moderate shear is a particularly challenging regime to predict tropical genesis and intensification.

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Antoine Michel
,
Ahmad Ababaei
, and
Bogdan Rosa

Abstract

The collision–coalescence of cloud droplets in atmospheric turbulent flow is analyzed numerically using direct numerical simulation coupled to a Lagrangian particle tracking. The droplet aerodynamic interactions (AI) are represented for employing two complementary approaches. For large separations, the interaction forces are evaluated by the superposition of Stokes disturbance velocities generated by moving particles. When the distance between droplets is comparable to their mean radii, lubrication forces are additionally considered. Simulation results show that without gravitational acceleration, aerodynamic interactions decrease the kinetics of the coalescence process but do not significantly impact the size spectrum broadening. The influence of AI on the coalescence kinetics is more complex in the presence of gravity and depends on the mass loading and on droplet inertia. Long-range aerodynamic interactions reduce the coalescences in dilute suspensions but increase the collision rate in dense suspensions of high-inertia droplets. In contrast, lubrication forces decrease the collision rate regardless of the mass loading. The collision efficiency induced by aerodynamic interactions additionally is influenced by the radius ratio of colliding droplets and the mechanisms leading to raindrops formation and growth. In cloud-like conditions, both long- and short-range AI decrease the fraction of raindrops created by collisions between droplets (autoconversion) while promoting raindrops growth by accretion (collection by settling drops). In turn, aerodynamic interactions favor the growth of a limited number of droplets and promote the broadening of the droplet size spectrum. This effect is stronger in dilute suspensions of weakly inertial droplets, corresponding to the flow properties encountered in developing precipitation.

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