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Hirohiko Masunaga
and
Hanii Takahashi

Abstract

The convective life cycle is often conceptualized to progress from congestus to deep convection and develop further to stratiform anvil clouds, accompanied by a systematic change in the vertical structure of vertical motion. This archetype scenario has been developed largely from the Eulerian viewpoint, and it has yet to be explored whether the same life cycle emerges itself in a moving system tracked in the Lagrangian manner. To address this question, Lagrangian tracking is applied to tropical convective systems in combination with a thermodynamic budget analysis forced by satellite-retrieved precipitation and radiation. A new method is devised to characterize the vertical motion profiles in terms of the column import or export of moisture and moist static energy (MSE). The bottom-heavy, midheavy, and top-heavy regimes are identified for every 1° × 1° grid pixel accompanying tracked precipitation systems, making use of the diagnosed column export/import of moisture and MSE. The major findings are as follows. The Lagrangian evolution of convective systems is dominated by a state of dynamic equilibrium among different convective regimes rather than a monotonic progress from one regime to the next. The transition from the bottom-heavy to midheavy regimes is fed with intensifying precipitation presumably owing to a negative gross moist stability (GMS) of the bottom-heavy regime, whereas the transition from the midheavy to top-heavy regimes dissipates the system. The bottom-heavy to midheavy transition takes a relaxation time of about 5 h in the equilibrating processes, whereas the relaxation time is estimated as roughly 20 h concerning the midheavy to top-heavy transition.

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Fran Morris
,
Juliane Schwendike
,
Douglas J. Parker
, and
Caroline Bain

Abstract

Understanding how mesoscale convection interacts with synoptic-scale circulations over West Africa is crucial for improving regional weather forecasts and developing convection parameterizations to address biases in climate models. A 10-yr pan-African convection-permitting simulation and a corresponding parameterized simulation for current-climate conditions are used to calculate the circulation budget around a synoptic region over the diurnal cycle, splitting processes that modulate circulation tendency (vorticity accumulation and vortex tilting) into diurnal mean and anomalous contributions. Dynamical fields are composited around precipitating grid cells during afternoon and overnight convection to understand how the mesoscale convection modulates synoptic-scale processes, and the composites are compared with an observational case. The dominant process modulating circulation tendency was found to be synoptic-scale vorticity accumulation, which is similar in the two simulations. The greatest difference between the simulated budgets was the tilting term. We propose that the tilting term is affected by convective momentum transport associated with precipitating systems crossing the boundary of the region, whereas the stretching term relies on the convergence and divergence induced by storms within the region. The simulation with parameterized convection captures the heating profile similarly to the simulation with explicit convection, but there are marked differences in convective momentum transport. An accurate vertical convergence structure as well as momentum transport must be simulated in parameterizations to correctly represent the impacts of convection on circulation.

Significance Statement

We used climate simulations with explicit convection and a convection parameterization to interrogate the relationship between mesoscale convection and synoptic-scale circulation over West Africa. We examined the typical behavior of mesoscale precipitating systems in both simulations and compared this with an observation of a storm. We also investigated how synoptic circulation changed over a diurnal cycle in both simulations. The biggest differences between the simulations were caused by how mesoscale systems in each simulation transport momentum when they cross the boundaries of a circulation, but the greatest impact on synoptic circulation was from the patterns of convergence and divergence induced by mesoscale systems, which are very similar in both simulations. Convection parameterizations should prioritize improving the representation of momentum transport.

Open access
Samuel Smith
,
Jian Lu
, and
Paul W. Staten

Abstract

As a dominant mode of jet variability on subseasonal time scales, the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) provides a window into how the atmosphere can produce internal oscillations on longer-than-synoptic time scales. While SAM’s existence can be explained by dry, purely barotropic theories, the time scale for its persistence and propagation is set by a lagged interaction between barotropic and baroclinic mechanisms, making the exact physical mechanisms challenging to identify and to simulate, even in latest generation models. By partitioning the eddy momentum flux convergence in MERRA-2 using an eddy–mean flow interaction framework, we demonstrate that diabatic processes (condensation and radiative heating) are the main contributors to SAM’s persistence in its stationary regime, as well as the key for preventing propagation in this regime. In SAM’s propagating regime, baroclinic and diabatic feedbacks also dominate the eddy–jet feedback. However, propagation is initiated by barotropic shifts in upper-level wave breaking and then sustained by a baroclinic response, leading to a roughly 60-day oscillation period. This barotropic propagation mechanism has been identified in dry, idealized models, but here we show evidence of this mechanism for the first time in reanalysis. The diabatic feedbacks on SAM are consistent with modulation of the storm-track latitude by SAM, altering the emission temperature and cloud cover over individual waves. Therefore, future attempts to improve the SAM time scale in models should focus on the storm-track location, as well as the roles of the cloud and moisture parameterizations.

Significance Statement

As they circumnavigate the planet, the tropospheric jet streams slowly drift north and south over about 30 days, longer than the normal limit of weather prediction. Understanding the source of this “memory” could improve our knowledge of how the atmosphere organizes itself and our ability to make long-term forecasts. Current theories have identified several possible internal atmospheric interactions responsible for this memory. Yet most of the theories for understanding the jets’ behavior assume that this behavior is only weakly influenced by atmospheric water vapor. We show that this assumption is not enough to understand jet persistence. Instead, clouds and precipitation are more important contributors in reanalysis data than internal “dry” mechanisms to this memory of the Southern Hemisphere jet.

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Elian Vanderborght
,
Jonathan Demaeyer
,
Georgy Manucharyan
,
Woosok Moon
, and
Henk A. Dijkstra

Abstract

In recent theory trying to explain the origin of baroclinic low-frequency atmospheric variability, the concept of eddy memory has been proposed. In this theory, the effect of synoptic-scale heat fluxes on the planetary-scale mean flow depends on the history of the mean meridional temperature gradient. Mathematically, this involves the convolution of a memory kernel with the mean meridional temperature gradient over past times. However, the precise shape of the memory kernel and its connection to baroclinic wave dynamics remains to be explained. In this study we use linear and proxy response theory to determine the shape of the memory kernel of a truncated two-layer quasigeostrophic atmospheric model. We find a memory kernel that relates the eddy heat flux to the zonal mean meridional temperature gradient on time scales greater than 2 days. Although the shape of the memory kernel is complex, we show that it may be well approximated as an exponential, particularly when reproducing baroclinic low-frequency intraseasonal modes of variability. By computing the terms in the Lorenz energy cycle, we find that the shape of the memory kernel can be linked to the finite time that growing baroclinic instabilities require to adapt their growth properties to the local zonal mean atmospheric flow stability. Regarding the explanation for observed baroclinic annular modes in the Southern Hemisphere, our results suggest that it is physical for these modes to be derived directly from the thermodynamic equation by considering an exponentially decaying memory kernel, provided accurate estimates of the necessary parameters are incorporated.

Significance Statement

The goal of this study was to derive the memory of the zonal mean temperature field contained in eddy heat fluxes. To do this we used recent developments in a theory stemming from statistical mechanics, called proxy response theory. This theory facilitated direct numerical computations of the parameterization that links eddy heat fluxes to the zonal mean temperature field. Notably, this parameterization incorporates a crucial memory component, which we demonstrated to be essential in explaining the periodicity of low-frequency modes of variability, specifically the baroclinic annular mode (BAM). Understanding the role of memory as a driver of this variability holds great significance, as the BAM constitutes a dominant pattern of large annular variability within the Southern Hemisphere circulation. Enhanced comprehension of this driver, which is memory, can lead to improved understanding and predictive capabilities concerning observed annular weather patterns.

Open access
Mengjuan Liu
,
Wei Huang
,
Hai Chu
, and
Bowen Zhou

Abstract

When the horizontal grid spacing of a numerical weather prediction model approaches kilometer scale, the so-called gray zone range, turbulent fluxes in the convective boundary layer (CBL) are partially resolved and partially subgrid scale (SGS). Knowledge of the partition between resolved and SGS turbulent fluxes is key to building scale-adaptive planetary boundary layer (PBL) schemes that are capable of regulating the SGS fluxes with varying grid spacing. However, flux partition depends not only on horizontal grid spacing, but also on local height, bulk stability of the boundary layer, and the particular turbulent flux. Such multivariate functions are difficult to construct analytically, so their implementations in scale-adaptive PBL schemes always involve certain levels of approximation that can lead to inaccuracies. This study introduces a physically based perspective for the flux partition functions that greatly simplifies their implementation with high accuracy. By introducing an appropriate scaling length λ that accounts for both height and bulk stability dependencies, the dimensionality of the partition functions is reduced to a single dimensionless group. Based on the analysis of a comprehensive large-eddy simulation dataset of the CBL, it is further shown that λ’s height and bulk stability dependencies can be separately represented by a similarity length scale and a stability coefficient. The resulting univariate partition functions are incorporated into a traditional first-order PBL scheme as a proof of concept. Our results show that the augmented scheme well-reproduces the SGS fluxes at gray zone resolutions.

Significance Statement

Flux partition functions are a key component in most scale-adaptive planetary boundary layer (PBL) schemes developed for kilometer- and subkilometer-resolution numerical weather prediction models. They regulate the parameterized turbulent fluxes as a function of horizontal grid spacing, while they also depend on height and atmospheric stability. Such multivariate dependencies forbid simple analytical expressions, and as a result, partition functions implemented in scale-adaptive PBL schemes are generally simplified at the cost of accuracy in previous works. This study investigates the possibility of constructing partition functions that are both accurate and easy to parameterize. Utilizing a physically based length scale, univariate partition functions are built, evaluated, and put into a conventional PBL scheme to improve the gray zone turbulence parameterization.

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Sarah A. Tessendorf
,
Kyoko Ikeda
,
Roy M. Rasmussen
,
Jeffrey French
,
Robert M. Rauber
,
Alexei Korolev
,
Lulin Xue
,
Derek R. Blestrud
,
Nicholas Dawson
,
Melinda Meadows
,
Melvin L. Kunkel
, and
Shaun Parkinson

Abstract

During the Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime clouds: the Idaho Experiment (SNOWIE) field campaign, cloud-top generating cells were frequently observed in the very high-resolution W-band airborne cloud radar data. This study examines multiple flight segments from three SNOWIE cases that exhibited cloud-top generating cells structures, focusing on the in situ measurements inside and outside these cells to characterize the microphysics of these cells. The observed generating cells in these three cases occurred in cloud tops of −15° to −30°C, with and without overlying cloud layers, but always with shallow layers of atmospheric instability observed at cloud top. The results also indicate that liquid water content, vertical velocity, and drizzle and ice crystal concentrations are greater inside the generating cells compared to the adjacent portions of the cloud. The generating cells were predominantly <500 m in horizontal width and frequently exhibited drizzle drops coexisting with ice. The particle imagery indicates that ice particle habits included plates, columns, and rimed and irregular crystals, likely formed via primary ice nucleation mechanisms. Understanding the sources of natural ice formation is important to understanding precipitation formation in winter orographic clouds, and is especially relevant for clouds that may be targeted for glaciogenic cloud seeding as well as to improve model representation of these clouds.

Significance Statement

This study presents the characteristics of cloud-top generating cells in winter orographic clouds, and documents that fine-scale generating cells are ubiquitous in clouds over complex terrain in addition to having been observed in other types of clouds. The generating cells exhibited enhanced concentrations of larger drizzle and ice particles, which suggests the environments of these fine-scale features promote ice formation and growth. The source of ice formation in winter clouds is critical to understanding and modeling the precipitation formation process. Given the ubiquity of cloud-top generating cells in many types of clouds around the world, this study further motivates the need to investigate methods for representing subgrid-scale environments to improve ice formation in numerical models.

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Scott W. Powell

Abstract

An idealized large-eddy simulation of a tropical marine cloud population was performed. At any time, it contained hundreds of clouds, and updraft width in shallow convection emerging from a subcloud layer appeared to be an important indicator of whether specific convective elements deepened. In an environment with 80%–90% relative humidity below the 0°C level, updrafts that penetrated the 0°C level were larger at and above cloud base, which occurred at the lifting condensation level near 600 m. Parcels rising in these updrafts appeared to emerge from boundary layer eddies that averaged ∼200 m wider than those in clouds that only reached 1.5–3 km height. The deeply ascending parcels (growers) possessed statistically similar values of effective buoyancy below the level of free convection (LFC) as parcels that began to ascend in a cloud but stopped before reaching 3000 m (nongrowers). The growers also experienced less dilution above the LFC. Nongrowers were characterized by negative effective buoyancy and rapid deceleration above the LFC, while growers continued to accelerate well above the LFC. Growers occurred in areas with a greater magnitude of background convergence (or weaker divergence) in the subcloud layer, especially between 300 m and cloud base, but whether the convergence actually led to eddy widening is unclear.

Significance Statement

Cumulonimbus clouds are responsible for many extreme weather phenomena and are important contributors to Earth’s energy balance. However, the processes leading to the growth of individual clouds are not completely understood nor well-represented in weather prediction models. We find that the clouds containing updrafts that start out wider at early stages of their life cycles grow taller, possibly because they are protected more from drier air outside the cloud than narrow clouds. In addition, this work shows how the initial width of clouds might be related to convergence in the lowest part of the atmosphere, at heights where clouds initially develop. However, meteorologists must be careful not to overinterpret these results because numerical simulations inherently include assumptions that may not reflect reality. This reinforces the need to also observe processes occurring at the scales of individual clouds.

Open access
Zhiming Kuang

Abstract

Methods in system identification are used to obtain linear time-invariant state-space models that describe how horizontal averages of temperature and humidity of a large cumulus ensemble evolve with time under small forcing. The cumulus ensemble studied here is simulated with cloud-system-resolving models in radiative–convective equilibrium. The identified models extend steady-state linear response functions used in past studies and provide accurate descriptions of the transfer function, the noise model, and the behavior of cumulus convection when coupled with two-dimensional gravity waves. A novel procedure is developed to convert the state-space models into an interpretable form, which is used to elucidate and quantify memory in cumulus convection. The linear problem studied here serves as a useful reference point for more general efforts to obtain data-driven and interpretable parameterizations of cumulus convection.

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Aman Gupta
,
Robert Reichert
,
Andreas Dörnbrack
,
Hella Garny
,
Roland Eichinger
,
Inna Polichtchouk
,
Bernd Kaifler
, and
Thomas Birner

Abstract

Gravity waves (GWs) are among the key drivers of the meridional overturning circulation in the mesosphere and upper stratosphere. Their representation in climate models suffers from insufficient resolution and limited observational constraints on their parameterizations. This obscures assessments of middle atmospheric circulation changes in a changing climate. This study presents a comprehensive analysis of stratospheric GW activity above and downstream of the Andes from 1 to 15 August 2019, with special focus on GW representation ranging from an unprecedented kilometer-scale global forecast model (1.4 km ECMWF IFS), ground-based Rayleigh lidar (CORAL) observations, modern reanalysis (ERA5), to a coarse-resolution climate model (EMAC). Resolved vertical flux of zonal GW momentum (GWMF) is found to be stronger by a factor of at least 2–2.5 in IFS compared to ERA5. Compared to resolved GWMF in IFS, parameterizations in ERA5 and EMAC continue to inaccurately generate excessive GWMF poleward of 60°S, yielding prominent differences between resolved and parameterized GWMFs. A like-to-like validation of GW profiles in IFS and ERA5 reveals similar wave structures. Still, even at ∼1 km resolution, the resolved waves in IFS are weaker than those observed by lidar. Further, GWMF estimates across datasets reveal that temperature-based proxies, based on midfrequency approximations for linear GWs, overestimate GWMF due to simplifications and uncertainties in GW wavelength estimation from data. Overall, the analysis provides GWMF benchmarks for parameterization validation and calls for three-dimensional GW parameterizations, better upper-boundary treatment, and vertical resolution increases commensurate with increases in horizontal resolution in models, for a more realistic GW analysis.

Significance Statement

Gravity wave–induced momentum forcing forms a key component of the middle atmospheric circulation. However, complete knowledge of gravity waves, their atmospheric effects, and their long-term trends are obscured due to limited global observations, and the inability of current climate models to fully resolve them. This study combines a kilometer-scale forecast model, modern reanalysis, and a coarse-resolution climate model to first compare the resolved and parameterized momentum fluxes by gravity waves generated over the Andes, and then evaluate the fluxes using a state-of-the-art ground-based Rayleigh lidar. Our analysis reveals shortcomings in current model parameterizations of gravity waves in the middle atmosphere and highlights the sensitivity of the estimated flux to the formulation used.

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Matthieu Kohl
and
Paul A. O’Gorman

Abstract

The vertical velocity distribution in the atmosphere is asymmetric with stronger upward than downward motion. This asymmetry is important for the distribution of precipitation and its extremes and for an effective static stability that has been used to represent the effects of latent heating on extratropical eddies. Idealized GCM simulations show that the asymmetry increases as the climate warms, but current moist dynamical theories based around small-amplitude modes greatly overestimate the increase in asymmetry with warming found in the simulations. Here, we first analyze the changes in asymmetry with warming using numerical inversions of a moist quasigeostrophic omega equation applied to output from the idealized GCM. The inversions show that increases in the asymmetry with warming in the GCM simulations are primarily related to decreases in moist static stability on the left-hand side of the moist omega equation, whereas the dynamical forcing on the right-hand side of the omega equation is unskewed and contributes little to the asymmetry of the vertical velocity distribution. By contrast, increases in asymmetry with warming for small-amplitude modes are related to changes in both moist static stability and dynamical forcing leading to enhanced asymmetry in warm climates. We distill these insights into a toy model of the moist omega equation that is solved for a given moist static stability and wavenumber of the dynamical forcing. In comparison to modal theory, the toy model better reproduces the slow increase of the asymmetry with climate warming in the idealized GCM simulations and over the seasonal cycle from winter to summer in reanalysis.

Significance Statement

Upward velocities are stronger than downward velocities in the atmosphere, and this asymmetry is important for the distribution of precipitation because precipitation is linked to upward motion. An important and open question is what sets this asymmetry and how much it increases as the climate warms. Past work has shown that current theories greatly overestimate the increase in asymmetry with warming in idealized simulations. In this work, we develop a more complete theory and show that it is able to better reproduce the slow increase of the asymmetry with warming that is found over the seasonal cycle from winter to summer and in idealized simulations of warming climates.

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