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Florian Pantillon, Peter Knippertz, John H. Marsham, and Cathryn E. Birch

Abstract

Cold pool outflows, generated by downdrafts from moist convection, can generate strong winds and therefore uplift of mineral dust. These so-called haboob convective dust storms occur over all major dust source areas worldwide and contribute substantially to emissions in northern Africa, the world’s largest source. Most large-scale models lack convective dust storms because they do not resolve moist convection, relying instead on convection schemes. The authors suggest a parameterization of convective dust storms to account for their contribution in such large-scale models. The parameterization is based on a simple conceptual model, in which the downdraft mass flux from the convection scheme spreads out radially in a cylindrical cold pool. The parameterization is tested with a set of Met Office Unified Model runs for June and July 2006 over West Africa. It is calibrated with a convection-permitting run and applied to a convection-parameterized run. The parameterization successfully produces the extensive area of dust-generating winds from cold pool outflows over the southern Sahara. However, this area extends farther to the east and dust-generating winds occur earlier in the day than in the convection-permitting run. These biases are caused by biases in the convection scheme. It is found that the location and timing of dust-generating winds are weakly sensitive to the parameters of the conceptual model. The results demonstrate that a simple parameterization has the potential to correct a major and long-standing limitation in global dust models.

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Sam Hardy, Juliane Schwendike, Roger K. Smith, Chris J. Short, Michael J. Reeder, and Cathryn E. Birch

Abstract

The key physical processes responsible for inner-core structural changes and associated fluctuations in the intensification rate for a recent, high-impact western North Pacific tropical cyclone that underwent rapid intensification [Nepartak (2016)] are investigated using a set of convection-permitting ensemble simulations. Fluctuations in the inner-core structure between ringlike and monopole states develop in 60% of simulations. A tangential momentum budget analysis of a single fluctuation reveals that during the ringlike phase, the tangential wind generally intensifies, whereas during the monopole phase, the tangential wind remains mostly constant. In both phases, the mean advection terms spin up the tangential wind in the boundary layer, whereas the eddy advection terms deepen the storm’s cyclonic circulation by spinning up the tangential wind between 1.5 and 4 km. Calculations of the azimuthally averaged, radially integrated vertical mass flux suggest that periods of near-constant tangential wind tendency are accompanied by a weaker eyewall updraft, which is unable to evacuate all the mass converging in the boundary layer. Composite analyses calculated from 18 simulations produce qualitatively similar results to those from the single case, a finding that is also in agreement with some previous observational and modeling studies. Above the boundary layer, the integrated contribution of the eddy term to the tangential wind tendency is over 80% of the contribution from the mean term, irrespective of inner-core structure. Our results strongly indicate that to fully understand the storm’s three-dimensional evolution, the contribution of the eddies must be quantified.

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Beth J. Woodhams, Cathryn E. Birch, John H. Marsham, Caroline L. Bain, Nigel M. Roberts, and Douglas F. A. Boyd

ABSTRACT

Forecasting convective rainfall in the tropics is a major challenge for numerical weather prediction. The use of convection-permitting (CP) forecast models in the tropics has lagged behind the midlatitudes, despite the great potential of such models in this region. In the scientific literature, there is very little evaluation of CP models in the tropics, especially over an extended time period. This paper evaluates the prediction of convective storms for a period of 2 years in the Met Office operational CP model over East Africa and the global operational forecast model. A novel localized form of the fractions skill score is introduced, which shows variation in model skill across the spatial domain. Overall, the CP model and the global model both outperform a 24-h persistence forecast. The CP model shows greater skill than the global model, in particular on subdaily time scales and for storms over land. Forecasts over Lake Victoria are also improved in the CP model, with an increase in hit rate of up to 20%. Contrary to studies in the midlatitudes, the skill of both models shows a large dependence on the time of day and comparatively little dependence on the forecast lead time within a 48-h forecast. Although these results provide more motivation for forecasters to use the CP model to produce subdaily forecasts with increased detail, there is a clear need for more in situ observations for data assimilation into the models and for verification. A move toward ensemble forecasting could have further benefits.

Open access
Beth J. Woodhams, Cathryn E. Birch, John H. Marsham, Todd P. Lane, Caroline L. Bain, and Stuart Webster

Abstract

The Lake Victoria region in East Africa is a hot spot for intense convective storms that are responsible for the deaths of thousands of fishermen each year. The processes responsible for the initiation, development, and propagation of the storms are poorly understood and forecast skill is limited. Key processes for the life cycle of two storms are investigated using Met Office Unified Model convection-permitting simulations with 1.5 km horizontal grid spacing. The two cases are analyzed alongside a simulation of a period with no storms to assess the roles of the lake–land breeze, downslope mountain winds, prevailing large-scale winds, and moisture availability. While seasonal changes in large-scale moisture availability play a key role in storm development, the lake–land-breeze circulation is a major control on the initiation location, timing, and propagation of convection. In the dry season, opposing offshore winds form a bulge of moist air above the lake surface overnight that extends from the surface to ~1.5 km and may trigger storms in high CAPE/low CIN environments. Such a feature has not been explicitly observed or modeled in previous literature. Storms over land on the preceding day are shown to alter the local atmospheric moisture and circulation to promote storm formation over the lake. The variety of initiation processes and differing characteristics of just two storms analyzed here show that the mean diurnal cycle over Lake Victoria alone is inadequate to fully understand storm formation. Knowledge of daily changes in local-scale moisture variability and circulations are keys for skillful forecasts over the lake.

Open access
Richard J. Keane, Keith D. Williams, Alison J. Stirling, Gill M. Martin, Cathryn E. Birch, and Douglas J. Parker

Abstract

The Met Office Unified Model (MetUM) is known to produce too little total rainfall on average over India during the summer monsoon period, when assessed for multiyear climate simulations. We investigate how quickly this dry bias appears by assessing the 5-day operational forecasts produced by the MetUM for six different years. It is found that the MetUM shows a drying tendency across the five days of the forecasts, for all of the six years (which correspond to two different model versions). We then calculate each term in the moisture budget, for a region covering southern and central India, where the dry bias is worst in both climate simulations and weather forecasts. By looking at how the terms vary with forecast lead time, we are able to identify biases in the weather forecasts that have been previously identified in climate simulations using the same model, and we attempt to quantify how these biases lead to a reduction in total rainfall. In particular, an anticyclonic bias develops to the east of India throughout the forecast, and it has a complex effect on the moisture available over the peninsula, and a reduction in the wind speed into the west of the region appears after about 3 days, indicative of upstream effects. In addition, we find a new bias that the air advected from the west is too dry from very early in the forecast, and this has an important effect on the rainfall.

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Cathryn E. Birch, Malcolm J. Roberts, Luis Garcia-Carreras, Duncan Ackerley, Michael J. Reeder, Adrian P. Lock, and Reinhard Schiemann

Abstract

There are some long-established biases in atmospheric models that originate from the representation of tropical convection. Previously, it has been difficult to separate cause and effect because errors are often the result of a number of interacting biases. Recently, researchers have gained the ability to run multiyear global climate model simulations with grid spacings small enough to switch the convective parameterization off, which permits the convection to develop explicitly. There are clear improvements to the initiation of convective storms and the diurnal cycle of rainfall in the convection-permitting simulations, which enables a new process-study approach to model bias identification. In this study, multiyear global atmosphere-only climate simulations with and without convective parameterization are undertaken with the Met Office Unified Model and are analyzed over the Maritime Continent region, where convergence from sea-breeze circulations is key for convection initiation. The analysis shows that, although the simulation with parameterized convection is able to reproduce the key rain-forming sea-breeze circulation, the parameterization is not able to respond realistically to the circulation. A feedback of errors also occurs: the convective parameterization causes rain to fall in the early morning, which cools and wets the boundary layer, reducing the land–sea temperature contrast and weakening the sea breeze. This is, however, an effect of the convective bias, rather than a cause of it. Improvements to how and when convection schemes trigger convection will improve both the timing and location of tropical rainfall and representation of sea-breeze circulations.

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Catherine A Senior, John H Marsham, Sègoléne Berthou, Laura E Burgin, Sonja S Folwell, Elizabeth J Kendon, Cornelia M Klein, Richard G Jones, Neha Mittal, David P Rowell, Lorenzo Tomassini, Thèo Vischel, Bernd Becker, Cathryn E Birch, Julia Crook, Andrew J Dougill, Declan L Finney, Richard J Graham, Neil C G Hart, Christopher D Jack, Lawrence S Jackson, Rachel James, Bettina Koelle, Herbert Misiani, Brenda Mwalukanga, Douglas J Parker, Rachel A Stratton, Christopher M Taylor, Simon O Tucker, Caroline M Wainwright, Richard Washington, and Martin R Willet

Abstract

Pan-Africa convection-permitting regional climate model simulations have been performed to study the impact of high resolution and the explicit representation of atmospheric moist convection on the present and future climate of Africa. These unique simulations have allowed European and African climate scientists to understand the critical role that the representation of convection plays in the ability of a contemporary climate model to capture climate and climate change, including many impact relevant aspects such as rainfall variability and extremes. There are significant improvements in not only the small-scale characteristics of rainfall such as its intensity and diurnal cycle, but also in the large-scale circulation. Similarly effects of explicit convection affect not only projected changes in rainfall extremes, dry-spells and high winds, but also continental-scale circulation and regional rainfall accumulations. The physics underlying such differences are in many cases expected to be relevant to all models that use parameterized convection. In some cases physical understanding of small-scale change mean that we can provide regional decision makers with new scales of information across a range of sectors. We demonstrate the potential value of these simulations both as scientific tools to increase climate process understanding and, when used with other models, for direct user applications. We describe how these ground-breaking simulations have been achieved under the UK Government’s Future Climate for Africa Programme. We anticipate a growing number of such simulations, which we advocate should become a routine component of climate projection, and encourage international co-ordination of such computationally, and human-resource expensive simulations as effectively as possible.

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