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Chelsea E. Snide
,
Ángel F. Adames
,
Scott W. Powell
, and
Víctor C. Mayta

Abstract

The initiation of the Madden–Julian oscillation over the Indian Ocean is examined through the use of a moisture budget that applies a version of the weak temperature gradient (WTG) approximation that does not neglect dry adiabatic vertical motions. Examination of this budget in ERA-Interim reveals that horizontal moisture advection and vertical advection by dry adiabatic lifting govern the moistening of the troposphere for both primary and successive MJO initiation events. For both types of initiation events, horizontal moisture advection peaks prior to the maximum moisture tendency, while dry adiabatic lifting peaks after the maximum moisture tendency. Once convection initiates, moisture is maintained by anomalous radiative and adiabatic lifting. The dry adiabatic lifting during successive MJO initiation is attributed to the return of the circumnavigating circulation from a previous MJO event, while in primary events the planetary-scale circulation appears to originate over South America. Examination of the same budget with data from the DYNAMO northern sounding array shows that adiabatic lifting contributes significantly to MJO maintenance, with a contribution that is comparable to that of surface heat fluxes. However, results from the DYNAMO data disagree with those from ERA-Interim over the importance of adiabatic lifting to the moistening of the troposphere prior to the onset of convection. In spite of these differences, the results from the two datasets show that small departures from WTG balance in the form of dry adiabatic motions cannot be neglected when considering MJO convective onset.

Full access
Brandon Wolding
,
Juliana Dias
,
George Kiladis
,
Fiaz Ahmed
,
Scott W. Powell
,
Eric Maloney
, and
Mark Branson

Abstract

Realistically representing the multiscale interactions between moisture and tropical convection remains an ongoing challenge for weather prediction and climate models. In this study, we revisit the relationship between precipitation and column saturation fraction (CSF) by investigating their tendencies in CSF–precipitation space using satellite and radar observations, as well as reanalysis. A well-known, roughly exponential increase in precipitation occurs as CSF increases above a “critical point,” which acts as an attractor in CSF–precipitation space. Each movement away from and subsequent return toward the attractor results in a small net change of the coupled system, causing it to evolve in a cyclical fashion around the attractor. This cyclical evolution is characterized by shallow and convective precipitation progressively moistening the environment and strengthening convection, stratiform precipitation progressively weakening convection, and drying in the nonprecipitating and lightly precipitation regime. This behavior is evident across a range of spatiotemporal scales, suggesting that shortcomings in model representation of the joint evolution of convection and large-scale moisture will negatively impact a broad range of spatiotemporal scales. Novel process-level diagnostics indicate that several models, all implementing versions of the Zhang–McFarlane deep convective parameterization, exhibit unrealistic coupling between column moisture and convection.

Free access
Ángel F. Adames
,
Scott W. Powell
,
Fiaz Ahmed
,
Víctor C. Mayta
, and
J. David Neelin

Abstract

Observations have shown that tropical convection is influenced by fluctuations in temperature and moisture in the lower free troposphere (LFT; 600–850 hPa), as well as moist enthalpy (ME) fluctuations beneath the 850 hPa level, referred to as the deep boundary layer (DBL; 850–1000 hPa). A framework is developed that consolidates these three quantities within the context of the buoyancy of an entraining plume. A “plume buoyancy equation” is derived based on a relaxed version of the weak temperature gradient (WTG) approximation. Analysis of this equation using quantities derived from the Dynamics of the Madden–Julian Oscillation (DYNAMO) sounding array data reveals that processes occurring within the DBL and the LFT contribute nearly equally to the evolution of plume buoyancy, indicating that processes that occur in both layers are critical to the evolution of tropical convection. Adiabatic motions play an important role in the evolution of buoyancy both at the daily and longer time scales and are comparable in magnitude to horizontal moisture advection and vertical moist static energy advection by convection. The plume buoyancy equation may explain convective coupling at short time scales in both temperature and moisture fluctuations and can be used to complement the commonly used moist static energy budget, which emphasizes the slower evolution of the convective envelope in tropical motion systems.

Open access
Xiping Zeng
,
Wei-Kuo Tao
,
Scott W. Powell
,
Robert A. Houze Jr.
,
Paul Ciesielski
,
Nick Guy
,
Harold Pierce
, and
Toshihisa Matsui

Abstract

Two field campaigns, the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis (AMMA) and the Tropical Warm Pool–International Cloud Experiment (TWP-ICE), took place in 2006 near Niamey, Niger, and Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, providing extensive observations of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) near a desert and a tropical coast, respectively. Under the constraint of their observations, three-dimensional cloud-resolving model simulations are carried out and presented in this paper to replicate the basic characteristics of the observed MCSs. All of the modeled MCSs exhibit a distinct structure having deep convective clouds accompanied by stratiform and anvil clouds. In contrast to the approximately 100-km-scale MCSs observed in TWP-ICE, the MCSs in AMMA have been successfully simulated with a scale of about 400 km.

These modeled AMMA and TWP-ICE MCSs offer an opportunity to understand the structure and mechanism of MCSs. Comparing the water budgets between AMMA and TWP-ICE MCSs suggests that TWP-ICE convective clouds have stronger ascent while the mesoscale ascent outside convective clouds in AMMA is stronger. A case comparison, with the aid of sensitivity experiments, also suggests that vertical wind shear and ice crystal (or dust aerosol) concentration can significantly impact stratiform and anvil clouds (e.g., their areas) in MCSs. In addition, the obtained water budgets quantitatively describe the transport of water between convective, stratiform, and anvil regions as well as water sources/sinks from microphysical processes, providing information that can be used to help determine parameters in the convective and cloud parameterizations in general circulation models (GCMs).

Full access
Brandon Wolding
,
Scott W. Powell
,
Fiaz Ahmed
,
Juliana Dias
,
Maria Gehne
,
George Kiladis
, and
J. David Neelin

Abstract

This study examines thermodynamic–convection coupling in observations and reanalyses, and attempts to establish process-level benchmarks needed to guide model development. Thermodynamic profiles obtained from the NOAA Integrated Global Radiosonde Archive, COSMIC-1 GPS radio occultations, and several reanalyses are examined alongside Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission precipitation estimates. Cyclical increases and decreases in a bulk measure of lower-tropospheric convective instability are shown to be coupled to the cyclical amplification and decay of convection. This cyclical flow emerges from conditional-mean analysis in a thermodynamic space composed of two components: a measure of “undiluted” instability, which neglects lower-free-tropospheric (LFT) entrainment, and a measure of the reduction of instability by LFT entrainment. The observational and reanalysis products examined share the following qualitatively robust characterization of these convective cycles: increases in undiluted instability tend to occur when the LFT is less saturated, are followed by increases in LFT saturation and precipitation rate, which are then followed by decreases in undiluted instability. Shallow, convective, and stratiform precipitation are coupled to these cycles in a manner consistent with meteorological expectations. In situ and satellite observations differ systematically from reanalyses in their depictions of lower-tropospheric temperature and moisture variations throughout these convective cycles. When using reanalysis thermodynamic fields, these systematic differences cause variations in lower-free-tropospheric saturation deficit to appear less influential in determining the strength of convection than is suggested by observations. Disagreements among reanalyses, as well as between reanalyses and observations, pose significant challenges to process-level assessments of thermodynamic–convection coupling.

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