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Gregory R. Foltz
,
Karthik Balaguru
, and
Samson Hagos

ABSTRACT

Sea surface temperature (SST) is one of the most important parameters for tropical cyclone (TC) intensification. Here, it is shown that the relationship between SST and TC intensification varies considerably from basin to basin, with SST explaining less than 4% of the variance in TC intensification rates in the Atlantic, 12% in the western North Pacific, and 23% in the eastern Pacific. Several factors are shown to be responsible for these interbasin differences. First, variability of SST along TCs’ tracks is lower in the Atlantic. This is due to smaller horizontal SST gradients in the Atlantic, compared to the Pacific, and stronger damping of prestorm SST’s contribution to TC intensification by the storm-induced cold SST wake in the Atlantic. The damping occurs because SST tends to vary in phase with TC-induced SST cooling: in the Gulf of Mexico and northwestern Atlantic, where SSTs are highest, TCs tend to be strongest and their translations slowest, resulting in the strongest storm-induced cooling. The tendency for TCs to be more intense over the warmest SST in the Atlantic also limits the usefulness of SST as a predictor since stronger storms are less likely to experience intensification. Finally, SST tends to vary out of phase with vertical wind shear and outflow temperature in the western Pacific. This strengthens the relationship between SST and TC intensification more in the western Pacific than in the eastern Pacific or Atlantic. Combined, these factors explain why prestorm SST is such a poor predictor of TC intensification in the Atlantic, compared to the eastern and western North Pacific.

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Samson Hagos
,
Zhe Feng
,
Sally McFarlane
, and
L. Ruby Leung

Abstract

By applying a cloud-tracking algorithm to tropical convective systems in a regional high-resolution model simulation, this study documents the environmental conditions before and after convective systems are initiated over ocean and land by following them during their lifetime. The comparative roles of various mechanisms of convection–environment interaction on the longevity of convective systems are quantified. The statistics of lifetime, maximum area, and propagation speed of the simulated deep convection agree well with geostationary satellite observations.

Among the environmental variables considered, lifetime of convective systems is found to be most related to midtropospheric moisture before as well as after the initiation of convection. Over ocean, convective systems enhance surface fluxes through the associated cooling and drying of the boundary layer as well as increased wind gusts. This process appears to play a minor positive role in the longevity of systems. For systems of equal lifetime, those over land tend to be more intense than those over ocean especially during the early stages of their life cycle. Both over ocean and land, convection is found to transport momentum vertically to increase low-level shear and decrease upper-level shear, but no discernible effect of shear on the lifetime of the convective systems is found.

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Samson Hagos
,
L. Ruby Leung
,
Qing Yang
,
Chun Zhao
, and
Jian Lu

Abstract

This study examines the sensitivity of atmospheric river (AR) frequency simulated by a global model with different grid resolutions and dynamical cores. Analysis is performed on aquaplanet simulations using version 4 of the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM4) at 240-, 120-, 60-, and 30-km model resolutions, each with the Model for Prediction Across Scales (MPAS) and High-Order Methods Modeling Environment (HOMME) dynamical cores. The frequency of AR events decreases with model resolution and the HOMME dynamical core produces more AR events than MPAS. Comparing the frequencies determined using absolute and percentile thresholds of large-scale conditions used to define an AR, model sensitivity is found to be related to the overall sensitivity of subtropical westerlies, atmospheric precipitable water content and profile, and to a lesser extent extratropical Rossby wave activity to model resolution and dynamical core. Real-world simulations using MPAS at 120- and 30-km grid resolutions also exhibit a decrease of AR frequency with increasing resolution over the southern east Pacific, but the difference is smaller over the northern east Pacific. This interhemispheric difference is related to the enhancement of convection in the tropics with increased resolution. This anomalous convection sets off Rossby wave patterns that weaken the subtropical westerlies over the southern east Pacific but has relatively little effect on those over the northern east Pacific. In comparison to the NCEP-2 reanalysis, MPAS real-world simulations are found to underestimate AR frequencies at both resolutions likely because of their climatologically drier subtropics and poleward-shifted jets. This study highlights the important links between model climatology of large-scale conditions and extremes.

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Samson Hagos
,
L. Ruby Leung
,
Oluwayemi Garuba
, and
Christina M. Patricola

Abstract

The frequency of North Pacific atmospheric rivers (ARs) affects water supply and flood risk over western North America. Thus, understanding factors that affect the variability of landfalling AR frequency is of scientific and societal importance. This study aims at identifying the sources of the moisture for North Pacific ARs and assessing how different modes of variability modulate these sources. To this end, the sources and variability of the background divergent component of the integrated moisture flux (DIVT) in ARs are identified using MERRA reanalysis. It is shown that in the boreal winter, this background DIVT in ARs is related to the outflow from the subsidence over the subtropics that transports moisture northward, while in summer it is related to the Asian monsoon and it transports moisture northwestward. This leads to a seasonal northwest–southeast movement of the AR frequency climatology. At the intraseasonal scale, propagation of the Madden–Julian oscillation introduces an anticlockwise rotation of the background DIVT, with northward transport in phases 1 and 2, westward in 3 and 4, southward in 5 and 6, and eastward in 7 and 8, making landfall over the west coast of North America most likely during the last two phases. Similarly, El Niño–Southern Oscillation variability also affects the frequency of ARs through modulation of the westerly background DIVT, favoring landfall over the U.S. West Coast during strong El Niño phases. It is shown that in general the likelihood of AR landfall over the western United States is correlated with the zonal background DIVT over northeastern Pacific.

Open access
Jingyi Chen
,
Samson Hagos
,
Zhe Feng
,
Jerome D. Fast
, and
Heng Xiao

Abstract

Some of the climate research puzzles relate to a limited understanding of the critical factors governing the life cycle of cumulus clouds. These factors force the initiation and the various mixing processes during cloud life cycles. To shed some light into these processes, we tracked the life cycle of thousands of individual shallow cumulus clouds in a large-eddy simulation during the Holistic Interactions of Shallow Clouds, Aerosols, and Land-Ecosystems field campaign in the U.S. southern Great Plains. Concurrent evolution of clouds is tracked and their respective neighboring clouds are examined. Results show that the clouds initially smaller than neighboring clouds can grow larger than the neighboring clouds by a factor of 2 within 20% of their lifetime. Two groups of the tracked clouds with growing and decaying neighboring clouds, respectively, show distinct characteristics in their life cycles. Clouds with growing neighboring clouds form above regions with larger surface heterogeneity, whereas clouds with decaying neighboring clouds are associated with less heterogeneous surfaces. Also, those with decaying neighboring clouds experience larger instability and a more humid boundary layer, indicating evaporation below the cloud base is likely occurring before those clouds are formed. Larger instability leads to higher vertical velocity and convergence within the cloud, which causes stronger surrounding downdrafts and water vapor removal in the surrounding area. The latter appears to be the reason for the decaying neighboring clouds. Understanding those processes provide insights into how cloud–cloud interactions modulate the evolution of cloud population and into how this evolution can be represented in future cumulus parameterizations.

Free access
Jingyi Chen
,
Samson Hagos
,
Heng Xiao
,
Jerome Fast
, and
Zhe Feng

Abstract

This study uses semi-idealized simulations to investigate multiscale processes induced by the heterogeneity of soil moisture observed during the 2016 Holistic Interactions of Shallow Clouds, Aerosols, and Land-Ecosystems (HI-SCALE) field campaign. The semi-idealized simulations have realistic land heterogeneity, but large-scale winds are removed. Analysis on isentropic coordinates enables the tracking of circulation that transports energy vertically and facilitates the identification of the primary convective processes induced by realistic land heterogeneity. The isentropes associated with upward motion are found to connect the ground characterized by high latent heat flux to cloud bases directly over the ground with high sensible heat flux, while isentropes associated with downward motion connect precipitation to the ground characterized by high sensible heat fluxes. The mixing of dry, warm parcels ascending from the ground with high sensible heat fluxes and moist parcels from high latent heat regions leads to cloud formation. This new mechanism explains how soil moisture heterogeneity provides the key ingredients such as buoyancy and moisture for shallow cloud formation. We also found that the submesoscale dominates upward energy transport in the boundary layer, while mesoscale circulations contribute to vertical energy transport above the boundary layer. Our novel method better illustrates and elucidates the nature of land atmospheric interactions under irregular and realistic soil moisture patterns.

Significance Statement

Models that resolve boundary layer turbulence and clouds have been used extensively to understand processes controlling land–atmosphere interactions, but many of their configurations and computational expense limit the use of variable land properties. This study aims to understand how heterogeneous land properties over multiple spatial scales affect energy redistribution by moist convection. Using a more realistic land representation and isentropic analyses, we found that high sensible heat flux regions are associated with relatively higher vertical velocity near the surface, and the high latent heat flux regions are associated with relatively higher moist energy. The mixing of parcels rising from these two regions results in the formation of shallow clouds.

Free access
Samson Hagos
,
Ruby Leung
,
Sara A. Rauscher
, and
Todd Ringler

Abstract

This study compares the error characteristics associated with two grid refinement approaches including global variable resolution and nesting for high-resolution regional climate modeling. The global variable-resolution model, Model for Prediction Across Scales-Atmosphere (MPAS-A), and the limited-area model, Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF), are compared in an idealized aquaplanet context. For MPAS-A, simulations have been performed with a quasi-uniform-resolution global domain at coarse (1°) and high (0.25°) resolution, and a variable-resolution domain with a high-resolution region at 0.25° configured inside a coarse-resolution global domain at 1° resolution. Similarly, WRF has been configured to run on a coarse (1°) and high (0.25°) tropical channel domain as well as a nested domain with a high-resolution region at 0.25° nested two-way inside the coarse-resolution (1°) tropical channel. The variable-resolution or nested simulations are compared against the high-resolution simulations. Both models respond to increased resolution with enhanced precipitation and significant reduction in the ratio of convective to nonconvective precipitation. The limited-area grid refinement induces zonal asymmetry in precipitation (heating), accompanied by zonal anomalous Walker-like circulations and standing Rossby wave signals. Within the high-resolution limited area, the zonal distribution of precipitation is affected by advection in MPAS-A and by the nesting strategy in WRF. In both models, the propagation characteristics of equatorial waves are not significantly affected by the variations in resolution.

Full access
Yun Qian
,
Huiping Yan
,
Larry K. Berg
,
Samson Hagos
,
Zhe Feng
,
Ben Yang
, and
Maoyi Huang

Abstract

Accuracy of turbulence parameterization in representing planetary boundary layer (PBL) processes and surface–atmosphere interactions in climate models is critical for predicting the initiation and development of clouds. This study 1) evaluates WRF Model–simulated spatial patterns and vertical profiles of atmospheric variables at various spatial resolutions and with different PBL, surface layer, and shallow convection schemes against measurements; 2) identifies model biases by examining the moisture tendency terms contributed by PBL and convection processes through nudging experiments; and 3) investigates the main causes of these biases by analyzing the dependence of modeled surface fluxes on PBL and surface layer schemes over the tropical ocean. The results show that PBL and surface parameterizations have surprisingly large impacts on precipitation and surface moisture fluxes over tropical oceans. All of the parameterizations tested tend to overpredict moisture in the PBL and free atmosphere and consequently result in larger moist static energy and precipitation. Moisture nudging tends to suppress the initiation of convection and reduces the excess precipitation. The reduction in precipitation bias in turn reduces the surface wind and latent heat (LH) flux biases, which suggests the positive feedback between precipitation and surface fluxes is responsible, at least in part, for the model drifts. The updated Kain–Fritsch cumulus potential (KF-CuP) shallow convection scheme tends to suppress the deep convection, consequently decreasing precipitation. The Eta Model surface layer scheme predicts more reasonable LH fluxes and LH–wind speed relationship than those for the MM5 scheme. The results help us identify sources of biases of current parameterization schemes in reproducing PBL processes, the initiation of convection, and intraseasonal variability of precipitation.

Full access
Casey D. Burleyson
,
Samson M. Hagos
,
Zhe Feng
,
Brandon W. J. Kerns
, and
Daehyun Kim

Abstract

The characteristics of Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) events that strengthen and weaken over the Maritime Continent (MC) are examined. The real-time multivariate MJO (RMM) index is used to assess changes in global MJO amplitude over the MC. The MJO weakens at least twice as often as it strengthens over the MC, with weakening MJOs being twice as likely during El Niño compared to La Niña years and the reverse for strengthening events. MJO weakening shows a pronounced seasonal cycle that has not been previously documented. During the Northern Hemisphere (NH) summer and fall the RMM index can strengthen over the MC. MJOs that approach the MC during the NH winter typically weaken according to the RMM index. This seasonal cycle corresponds to whether the MJO crosses the MC primarily north or south of the equator. Because of the seasonal cycle, weakening MJOs are characterized by positive sea surface temperature and moist-static energy anomalies in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) of the MC compared to strengthening events. Analysis of the outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) MJO index (OMI) shows that MJO precipitation weakens when it crosses the MC along the equator. A possible explanation of this based on previous results is that the MJO encounters more landmasses and taller mountains when crossing along the equator or in the SH. The new finding of a seasonal cycle in MJO weakening over the MC highlights the importance of sampling MJOs throughout the year in future field campaigns designed to study MJO–MC interactions.

Full access
Katelyn A. Barber
,
Casey D. Burleyson
,
Zhe Feng
, and
Samson M. Hagos

Abstract

In this study, a pair of convection-permitting (2-km grid spacing), month-long, wet-season Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulations with and without the eddy-diffusivity mass-flux (EDMF) scheme are performed for a portion of the Green Ocean Amazon (GoAmazon) 2014/15 field campaign period. EDMF produces an ensemble of subgrid-scale convective plumes that evolve in response to the boundary layer meteorological conditions and can develop into shallow clouds. The objective of this study is to determine how different treatments of shallow cumulus clouds (i.e., with and without EDMF) impact the total cloud population and precipitation across the Amazonian rain forest, with emphasis on impacts on the likelihood of shallow-to-deep convection transitions. Results indicate that the large-scale synoptic conditions in the EDMF and control simulations are nearly identical; however, on the local scale their rainfall patterns diverge drastically and the biases decrease in EDMF. The EDMF scheme significantly increases the frequency of shallow clouds, but the frequencies of deep clouds are similar between the simulations. Deep convective clouds are tracked using a cloud-tracking algorithm to examine the impact of shallow cumulus on the surrounding ambient environment where deep convective clouds initiate. Results suggest that a rapid increase of low-level cloudiness acts to cool and moisten the low to midtroposphere during the day, favoring the transition to deep convection.

Open access