Abstract

Oceanic cumulonimbus updraft and downdraft events observed in the Western Pacific during the TAMEX program by NOAA P-3 research aircraft are analyzed and discussed. The basic dataset consists of flight-level data from 10 missions in the Taiwan region during May and June 1987. The 1 Hz time series of vertical velocity is used to define convective updrafts using the criteria that the velocity must be continuously positive for at least 0.5 km and exceed 0.5 m s−1 for 1 s. A subset of the strongest drafts, termed cores, are defined as events that exceed 1 m s−1 for 0.5 km. Downdrafts and downdraft cores are defined analogously. The statistics are from a total of 12 841 km of flight legs and consist of 359 updrafts and 466 downdrafts at altitudes from 150 m to 6.8 km MSL. The populations of average vertical velocity, maximum vertical velocity, diameter, and mass transport for both drafts and cores are approximately log-normally distributed, consistent with the results of previous studies of convective characteristics in other locations. TAMEX drafts and cores are comparable in size and strength with those measured in GATE and hurricanes but much weaker than those measured in continental thunderstorms.

The median core updraft was less than 3 m s−1, implying a time scale for ascent from cloud base to the freezing level of about 35 min. The microphysical implications of the low updraft rates are illustrated by comparing vertical profiles of radar reflectivity for TAMEX with those in other regions. The data are consistent with the hypothesis that the oceanic convection that was studied in GATE, hurricanes, and TAMEX is dominated by warm rain coalescence processes and that a large fractional rainout occurs below the freezing level. The rapid reduction of cloud water and radar reflectivity above the freezing level, as well as observations of abundant ice particles in all but the strongest updraft cores at temperatures just below 0°C, implies a rapid conversion of cloud water and rain to ice and graupel as the air ascends through the freezing level. The, lack of reports of hail and other forms of severe weather in these oceanic regions is consistent with the aircraft and radar observations.

The data from the “best” organized weather system investigated by the P-3 during TAMEX are used to examine the relationship of cloud buoyancy and vertical motion. Water loading and entrainment has a significant role in reducing both the core virtual temperature excess over the environment and the updraft velocity from what would be expected from the convective available potential energy of the environmental air. The majority of the strongest downdrafts possess positive temperature perturbations (probably as a result of mixing with nearby updraft air) with the negative buoyancy being sustained by large amounts of rainwater.

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