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Samson Hagos
,
L. Ruby Leung
, and
Jimy Dudhia

Abstract

To identify the main thermodynamic processes that sustain the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), an eddy available potential energy budget analysis is performed on a regional model simulation with moisture constrained by observations. The model realistically simulates the two MJO episodes observed during the winter of 2007/08. Analysis of these two cases shows that instabilities and damping associated with variations in diabatic heating and energy transport work in concert to provide the MJO with its observed characteristics. The results are used to construct a simplified paradigm of MJO thermodynamics.

Furthermore, the effect of moisture nudging on the simulation is analyzed to identify the limitations of the model cumulus parameterization. Without moisture nudging, the parameterization fails to provide adequate low-level (upper level) moistening during the early (late) stage of the MJO active phase. The moistening plays a critical role in providing stratiform heating variability that is an important source of eddy available potential energy for the model MJO.

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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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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
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
Gang Chen
,
Jesse Norris
,
J. David Neelin
,
Jian Lu
,
L. Ruby Leung
, and
Koichi Sakaguchi

Abstract

Precipitation changes in a warming climate have been examined with a focus on either mean precipitation or precipitation extremes, but changes in the full probability distribution of precipitation have not been well studied. This paper develops a methodology for the quantile-conditional column moisture budget of the atmosphere for the full probability distribution of precipitation. Analysis is performed on idealized aquaplanet model simulations under 3-K uniform SST warming across different horizontal resolutions. Because the covariance of specific humidity and horizontal mass convergence is much reduced when conditioned onto a given precipitation percentile range, their conditional averages yield a clear separation between the moisture (thermodynamic) and circulation (dynamic) effects of vertical moisture transport on precipitation. The thermodynamic response to idealized climate warming can be understood as a generalized “wet get wetter” mechanism, in which the heaviest precipitation of the probability distribution is enhanced most from increased gross moisture stratification, at a rate controlled by the change in lower-tropospheric moisture rather than column moisture. The dynamic effect, in contrast, can be interpreted by shifts in large-scale atmospheric circulations such as the Hadley cell circulation or midlatitude storm tracks. Furthermore, horizontal moisture advection, albeit of secondary role, is important for regional precipitation change. Although similar mechanisms are at play for changes in both mean precipitation and precipitation extremes, the thermodynamic contributions of moisture transport to increases in high percentiles of precipitation tend to be more widespread across a wide range of latitudes than increases in the mean, especially in the subtropics.

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Yan Yang
,
Jiwen Fan
,
L. Ruby Leung
,
Chun Zhao
,
Zhanqing Li
, and
Daniel Rosenfeld

Abstract

A significant reduction in precipitation in the past decades has been documented over many mountain ranges such as those in central and eastern China. Consistent with the increase of air pollution in these regions, it has been argued that the precipitation trend is linked to the aerosol microphysical effect on suppressing warm rain. Rigorous quantitative investigations on the reasons responsible for the precipitation reduction are lacking. In this study, an improved Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model with online coupled chemistry (WRF-Chem) is applied and simulations are conducted at the convection-permitting scale to explore the major mechanisms governing changes in precipitation from orographic clouds in the Mt. Hua area in central China. It is found that anthropogenic pollution contributes to a ~40% reduction of precipitation over Mt. Hua during the 1-month summertime period. The reduction is mainly associated with precipitation events associated with valley–mountain circulation and a mesoscale cold-front event. In this paper (Part I), the mechanism leading to a significant reduction for the cases associated with valley–mountain circulation is scrutinized. It is found that the valley breeze is weakened by aerosols as a result of absorbing aerosol-induced warming aloft and cooling near the surface as a result of aerosol–radiation interaction (ARI). The weakened valley breeze and the reduced water vapor in the valley due to reduced evapotranspiration as a result of surface cooling significantly reduce the transport of water vapor from the valley to mountain and the relative humidity over the mountain, thus suppressing convection and precipitation in the mountain.

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