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L. Ruby Leung
,
Ying-Hwa Kuo
, and
Joe Tribbia
Full access
Xingchao Chen
,
L. Ruby Leung
,
Zhe Feng
, and
Qiu Yang

Abstract

A novel high-resolution regional reanalysis is used to investigate the mesoscale processes that preceded the formation of Tropical Cyclone (TC) Mora (2017). Both satellite observations and the regional reanalysis show early morning mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) persistently initiated and organized in the downshear quadrant of the preexisting tropical disturbance a few days prior to the genesis of TC Mora. The diurnal MCSs gradually enhanced the meso-α-scale vortex near the center of the preexisting tropical disturbance through vortex stretching, providing a vorticity-rich and moist environment for the following burst of deep convection and enhancement of the meso-β-scale vortex. The regional reanalysis shows that the gravity waves that radiated from afternoon convection over the northern coast of the Bay of Bengal might play an important role in modulating the diurnal cycle of pregenesis MCSs. The diurnal convectively forced gravity waves increased the tropospheric stability, reduced the column saturation fraction, and suppressed deep convection within the preexisting tropical disturbance from noon to evening. A similar quasi-diurnal cycle of organized deep convection prior to TC genesis has also been observed over other basins. However, modeling studies are needed to conclusively demonstrate the relationships between the gravity waves and pregenesis diurnal MCSs. Also, whether diurnal gravity waves play a similar role in modulating the pregenesis deep convection in other TCs is worth future investigations.

Significance Statement

Tropical cyclogenesis is a process by which a less organized weather system in the tropics develops into a tropical cyclone (TC). Observations indicate that thunderstorms occurring prior to the tropical cyclogenesis often show a distinct quasi-diurnal cycle, while the related physical mechanisms are still unclear. In this study, we used a novel high-resolution dataset to investigate the diurnal thunderstorms occurring prior to the genesis of TC Mora (2017). We find that the pregenesis diurnal thunderstorms played a crucial role in spinning up the circulation of the atmosphere and provided a favorable environment for the rapid formation of Mora. It is likely that gravity waves emitted by afternoon thunderstorms over the inland region were responsible for regulating the diurnal variation of pregenesis thunderstorms over the ocean.

Free access
Qiu Yang
,
L. Ruby Leung
,
Zhe Feng
,
Fengfei Song
, and
Xingchao Chen

Abstract

Mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) account for more than 50% of summertime precipitation over the central United States and have a significant impact on local weather and hydrologic cycle. It is hypothesized that the inadequate treatment of MCSs is responsible for the long-standing warm and dry bias over the central United States in coarse-resolution general circulation model (GCM) simulations. In particular, a better understanding of MCS initiation is still lacking. Here a single-column Lagrangian parcel model is first developed to simulate the basic features of a rising parcel. This simple model demonstrates the collective effects of boundary layer moistening and dynamical lifting in triggering convective initiation and reproduces successfully its early afternoon peak with surface equivalent potential temperature as a controlling factor. It also predicts that convection is harder to trigger in the future climate under global warming, consistent with the results from convection-permitting regional climate simulations. Then, a multicolumn model that includes an array of single-column models aligned in the east–west direction and incorporates idealized cold pool interaction mechanisms is developed. The multicolumn model captures readily the cold pool–induced upscale growth feature in MCS genesis from initially scattered convection that is organized into a mesoscale cluster in a few hours. It also highlights the crucial role of lifting effects due to cold pool collision and spreading, subsidence effect, and gust front propagation speed in controlling the final size of mesoscale clusters and cold pool regions. This simple model should be useful for understanding fundamental mechanisms of MCS initiation and providing guidance for improving MCS simulations in GCMs.

Open access
Xingchao Chen
,
Olivier M. Pauluis
,
L. Ruby Leung
, and
Fuqing Zhang

Abstract

This study investigates multiscale atmospheric overturning during the 2009 Indian summer monsoon (ISM) using a cloud-permitting numerical model. The isentropic analysis technique adopted here sorts vertical mass fluxes in terms of the equivalent potential temperature of air parcels, which is capable of delineating the atmospheric overturning between ascending air parcels with high entropy and subsiding air parcels with low entropy. The monsoonal overturning is further decomposed into contributions from three characteristic scales: the basinwide ascent over the Indian monsoon domain, the regional-scale overturning associated with synoptic and mesoscale systems, and the convective-scale overturning. Results show that the convective-scale component dominates the upward mass transport in the lower troposphere while the region-scale component plays an important role by deepening the monsoonal overturning. The spatial variability of the convective-scale overturning is analyzed, showing intense convection over the Western Ghats and the Bay of Bengal while the deepest overturning is localized over northern India and the Himalayan foothills. The equivalent potential temperature in convective updrafts is higher over land than over the ocean or coastal regions. There is also substantial variability in the atmospheric overturning associated with the intraseasonal variability. The upward mass and energy transport increase considerably during the active phases of the ISM. A clear northeastward propagation in the peak isentropic vertical mass and energy transport over different characteristic regions can be found during the ISM, which corresponds to the intraseasonal oscillations of the ISM. Altogether, this study further demonstrates the utility of the isentropic analysis technique to characterize the spatiotemporal variations of convective activities in complex atmospheric flows.

Open access
L. Ruby Leung
,
Yun Qian
,
Xindi Bian
, and
Allen Hunt

Abstract

The hydroclimate of the western United States is influenced by strong interannual variability of atmospheric circulation, much of which is associated with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Precipitation anomalies during ENSO often show opposite and spatially coherent dry and wet patterns in the Northwest and California or vice versa. The role of orography in establishing mesoscale ENSO anomalies in the western United States is examined based on observed precipitation and temperature data at 1/8° spatial resolution and a regional climate simulation at 40-km spatial resolution. Results show that during El Niño or La Niña winters, strong precipitation anomalies are found in northern California, along the southern California coast, and in the northwest mountains such as the Olympic Mountains, the Cascades, and the northern Rockies. These spatial features, which are strongly affected by topography, are surprisingly well reproduced by the regional climate simulation.

A spatial feature investigated further is the positive–negative–positive precipitation anomaly found during El Niño years in the Olympic Mountains, and on the west side and east side of the Cascades in both observations and regional simulation. Observed streamflows of river basins located in those areas are found to be consistent with the precipitation anomalies. The spatial distribution of the precipitation anomalies is investigated by relating flow direction and moisture to the orientation of mountains and orographic precipitation. On the west side of the north–south-oriented Cascade Range, the increase in atmospheric moisture is not enough to compensate for the loss of orographic precipitation associated with a change in flow direction toward the southwest during El Niño years. In California, both the increase in atmospheric moisture and shift in wind direction toward the southwest enhance precipitation along the Sierra, which is oriented northwest to southeast. The spatial signature of the interactions between large-scale circulation and topography may provide useful information for seasonal predictions or climate change detection.

Full access
Yuefeng Li
,
L. Ruby Leung
,
Ziniu Xiao
,
Min Wei
, and
Qingquan Li

Abstract

This study assesses the ability of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) simulations in capturing the interdecadal precipitation enhancement over the Yangtze River valley (YRV) and investigates the contributions of Arctic temperature and mid- to high-latitude warming to the interdecadal variability of the East Asian summer monsoon rainfall. Six CMIP5 historical simulations including models from the Canadian Centre for Climate Modeling and Analysis (CCCma), the Beijing Climate Center, the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, the Meteorological Research Institute, the Met Office Hadley Centre, and NCAR are used. The NCEP–NCAR reanalysis and observed precipitation are also used for comparison. Among the six CMIP5 simulations, only CCCma can approximately simulate the enhancement of interdecadal summer precipitation over the YRV in 1990–2005 relative to 1960–75; the various relationships between the summer precipitation and surface temperature (Ts ), 850-hPa winds, and 500-hPa height field (H500); and the relationships between Ts and H500 determined using regression, correlation, and singular value decomposition (SVD) analyses. It is found that CCCma can reasonably simulate the interdecadal surface warming over the boreal mid- to high latitudes in winter, spring, and summer. The summer Baikal blocking anomaly is postulated to be the bridge that links the winter and spring surface warming over the mid- to high latitude and Arctic with the enhancement of summer precipitation over the YRV. Models that missed some or all of these relationships found in CCCma and the reanalysis failed to simulate the interdecadal enhancement of precipitation over the YRV. This points to the importance of Arctic and mid- to high-latitude processes on the interdecadal variability of the East Asian summer monsoon and the challenge for global climate models to correctly simulate the linkages.

Full access
Man-Yau Chan
,
Fuqing Zhang
,
Xingchao Chen
, and
L. Ruby Leung

Abstract

Geostationary infrared satellite observations are spatially dense [>1/(20 km)2] and temporally frequent (>1 h−1). These suggest the possibility of using these observations to constrain subsynoptic features over data-sparse regions, such as tropical oceans. In this study, the potential impacts of assimilating water vapor channel brightness temperature (WV-BT) observations from the geostationary Meteorological Satellite 7 (Meteosat-7) on tropical convection analysis and prediction were systematically examined through a series of ensemble data assimilation experiments. WV-BT observations were assimilated hourly into convection-permitting ensembles using Penn State’s ensemble square root filter (EnSRF). Comparisons against the independently observed Meteosat-7 window channel brightness temperature (Window-BT) show that the assimilation of WV-BT generally improved the intensities and locations of large-scale cloud patterns at spatial scales larger than 100 km. However, comparisons against independent soundings indicate that the EnSRF analysis produced a much stronger dry bias than the no data assimilation experiment. This strong dry bias is associated with the use of the simulated WV-BT from the prior mean during the EnSRF analysis step. A stochastic variant of the ensemble Kalman filter (NoMeanSF) is proposed. The NoMeanSF algorithm was able to assimilate the WV-BT without causing such a strong dry bias and the quality of the analyses’ horizontal cloud pattern is similar to EnSRF’s analyses. Finally, deterministic forecasts initiated from the NoMeanSF analyses possess better horizontal cloud patterns above 500 km than those of the EnSRF. These results suggest that it might be better to assimilate all-sky WV-BT through the NoMeanSF algorithm than the EnSRF algorithm.

Free access
Hoang Tran
,
Yilin Fang
,
Zeli Tan
,
Tian Zhou
, and
L. Ruby Leung

Abstract

The Lower Mississippi River basin (LMRB) has experienced significant changes in land cover and is one of the most vulnerable regions to hurricanes in the United States. Here, we study the impacts of land-cover change on the hydrologic response to Hurricane Ida in LMRB. By using an integrated surface–subsurface hydrologic model, Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) Land Model coupled with the three-dimensional ParFlow subsurface flow model (ELM-ParFlow), we simulate the effects of land-cover change on the flood volume and peak timing induced by rainfall from Hurricane Ida. The results show that land-cover changes from 1850 to 2015, which resulted in a smoother surface and less vegetation, exacerbated both flood peak time and volume induced by Hurricane Ida. The effects of land-cover changes can be decomposed into two mechanisms: a smoother surface routes more water faster to a watershed outlet and less vegetation allows more water to contribute to surface runoff. By comparing scenarios in which the two mechanisms were isolated, we found that changes in soil moisture due to vegetation cover change have more dominant effects on floods in the southern part and changes in Manning’s coefficient have the largest effect on floods in the northern part of the LMRB. The study provides important insights into the complex relationship between land-use, land-cover, and hydrologic processes in coastal regions.

Restricted access
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.

Restricted access
Huancui Hu
,
L. Ruby Leung
,
Zhe Feng
, and
James Marquis

Abstract

Moisture recycling, the contribution of local evapotranspiration (ET) to precipitation, has been studied using bulk models assuming a well-mixed atmosphere. The latter is inconsistent with a climatologically stratified atmosphere that slants across latitudes. Reconciling the two views requires an understanding of overturning associated with different weather systems. In this study, we aim to better understand moisture recycling associated with mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). Using a convection-permitting WRF simulation equipped with water vapor tracers (WRF-WVT), we tag moisture from terrestrial ET in the U.S. Southern Great Plains during May 2015, when more than 20 MCS events occurred and produced significant precipitation and flooding. Water budget analysis reveals that approximately 76% of terrestrial ET is advected away from the region while the remaining 24% of terrestrial ET is “pumped” upward within the region, accounting for 12% of precipitation. Moisture recycling peaks during early night hours (1800–2400 LT) due to the mixing of the daytime accumulated ET by active convection. By focusing on five “diurnally driven” MCSs with less large-scale circulation influence than other MCSs during the same period, we find an upright pumping of terrestrial ET at the MCS initiation and development stages, which diverges into two branches during the MCS mature and decaying stages. One branch in the upper level advects the ET-sourced moisture downstream, while the other branch in the mid-to-upper level contributes to the trailing precipitation upstream. Overall, our analysis depicts a pumping mechanism associated with MCSs that mixes local ET vertically, highlighting its specific contributions to enhancing convective precipitation processes.

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