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Stephen D. Nicholls
and
George S. Young

Abstract

An observational analysis of the structure and synoptic setting of tropical dendritic cumulus formations was undertaken using 30 months of global data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Terra satellite, the Quick Scatterometer aboard the SeaWinds satellite, and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction global reanalysis. This analysis yielded 1216 cases of tropical dendritic cumulus formations of which 61 were randomly selected for quantitative study. From these sample cases, it was found that dendritic patterns in shallow cumulus occurred over warm tropical oceans in response to cold air advection. They typically dissipate downstream in regions of cooler water, neutral to warm advection, or deep convection. Moreover, shallow cumulus formations take on a dendritic pattern only in areas where the background wind velocity is between 1.5 and 13 m s−1 in the surface to the 850-mb layer and a shallow layer of conditional instability is present. Individual cumulus clouds in these dendritic formations are arranged in a compound, hierarchical branching pattern in which each element of the pattern takes the form of a Y-shaped cloud line. Analysis of the cloud pattern observations in conjunction with the scatterometer-derived surface winds and the lower-tropospheric wind profiles from reanalysis data reveals that the individual Y elements are aligned closely with the surface wind direction, as linear cloud streets would be. These Y elements are oriented so that their forked end aligns as closely as possible with the surface-to-850-mb shear vector, even when this conflicts with the surface wind direction. A formation mechanism is hypothesized by which the secondary circulation of a towering cumulus line modifies the shear and stability profiles in the adjacent areas to favor shallower cumulus lines oriented at an angle to itself, thus forming a hierarchical branching structure. This hypothesis is supported by stability profiles from the reanalysis data.

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S. Nicholls
,
W. Shaw
, and
T. Hauf

Abstract

During the Joint Air-Sea Interaction (JASIN) experiment over the North Atlantic, three aircraft equipped to measure turbulent fluctuations of wind, temperature and humidity flew together in close formation, in order to compare results. These aircraft were the MRF C130, the NCAR Electra and the DFVLR Falcon. Most runs were made in the atmospheric boundary layer. This paper presents the results of this intercomparison exercise. Results are presented in terms of comparisons between variances and covariances which are further investigated by comparing spectra and co-spectra.

Overall, very good agreement is found between the C130 and the Electra, although small differences can be detected. However, these are negligible compared to the scatter usually observed when making measurements in the turbulent atmospheric boundary layer. The Falcon, at an earlier stage of development, also shows reasonable agreement although the amount of available data was much more limited.

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S. Nicholls
,
J. Leighton
, and
R. Barker

Abstract

A device for measuring the total water content of a parcel of air from an aircraft has been developed. The total water of a parcel of air is a conserved quantity, independent of phase changes, provided there is no transport of water through the parcel boundaries. Current airborne hygrometers normally attempt to measure the water content in individual phases and the presence of other phases invariably influences the quality of the data. However, any liquid water or ice entering this new probe is efficiently evaporated and the resultant water vapor measured using a Lyman-alpha hygrometer.

In airborne trials the device was calibrated against a cooled-mirror dewpoint device. Runs were conducted in warm stratocumulus tops, through small cumulus, in mixed-phase precipitation and cirrus cloud. In all cases the device was found to produce high quality, fast response data.

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Carsten S. Frederiksen
,
Huqiang Zhang
,
Ramesh C. Balgovind
,
Neville Nicholls
,
Wasyl Drosdowsky
, and
Lynda Chambers

Abstract

An evaluation of trial seasonal forecasts during the 1997/98 El Niño, using an atmospheric GCM forced by persisted sea surface temperature and sea-ice anomalies, is presented. Generally, forecasts of seasonal anomalies of precipitation, surface air temperature, 200-hPa geopotential height, and mean sea level pressure (MSLP) are shown to have statistically significant skill in the Tropics and subtropics, but predominantly over the oceans. Surface air temperature and 200-hPa height anomalies are also skillfully forecast over land in the 30°S–30°N latitudinal band, and, in contrast to precipitation and MSLP, also show significant skill in the extratropics. The global pattern of significant skill seems not to be oversensitive to the use of a Kuo or a mass-flux convection scheme (Tiedtke), although the global root-mean-square errors are consistently larger, in the latter case.

Results from multidecadal simulations of the model, when forced by observed sea surface temperature and sea-ice, show that the model reproduces quite well the observed global Southern Oscillation index relationships and that these go some way to explaining the skill in the model forecasts. In addition, the global patterns of skill are consistent with those seen in the model forecasts. An estimate of the role of sea surface temperature and sea-ice in forcing interseasonal climate variations, suggests that the model displays forecasts skill in those areas where this forcing plays a large, if not dominant, role. In areas where internal, or chaotic, variability plays a dominant role, the model shows little statistically significant skill.

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