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David M. Romps

Abstract

Cloud-resolving simulations of convection over a surface temperature hot spot are used to evaluate the weak pressure gradient (WPG) and weak temperature gradient (WTG) approximations. The premise of the relaxed form of WTG—that vertical velocity is equal to buoyancy times a positive time scale—is found to be violated by thick layers of negative buoyancy in steady-state ascent. The premise of WPG—that horizontal divergence and pressure anomalies are collocated—is validated by these simulations. When implemented in a cloud-resolving model, WPG replicates buoyancy transients exceptionally well, including the adiabatic lifting of air below buoyancy anomalies. WTG captures neither this effect nor the associated triggering of moist convection. For steady states, WTG produces vertical velocity profiles that are too top heavy. On the other hand, WPG generates velocity profiles that closely match fully resolved hot-spot simulations. Taken together, the evidence suggests that WPG is a relatively accurate method for parameterizing supradomain-scale (SDS) dynamics.

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David M. Romps

Abstract

By deriving analytical solutions to radiative–convective equilibrium (RCE), it is shown mathematically that convective available potential energy (CAPE) exhibits Clausius–Clapeyron (CC) scaling over a wide range of surface temperatures up to 310 K. Above 310 K, CAPE deviates from CC scaling and even decreases with warming at very high surface temperatures. At the surface temperature of the current tropics, the analytical solutions predict that CAPE increases at a rate of about 6%–7% per kelvin of surface warming. The analytical solutions also provide insight on how the tropopause height and stratospheric humidity change with warming. Changes in the tropopause height exhibit CC scaling, with the tropopause rising by about 400 m per kelvin of surface warming at current tropical temperatures and by about 1–2 km K−1 at surface temperatures in the range of 320–340 K. The specific humidity of the stratosphere exhibits super-CC scaling at temperatures moderately warmer than the current tropics. With a surface temperature of the current tropics, the stratospheric specific humidity increases by about 6% per kelvin of surface warming, but the rate of increase is as high as 30% K−1 at warmer surface temperatures.

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David M. Romps

Abstract

Using high-resolution cloud-resolving simulations with different CO2 concentrations, local precipitation fluxes are found to obey Clausius–Clapeyron (CC) scaling. Previous studies of the effect of CO2 concentration on precipitation extremes have used general circulation models, which are poor platforms for studying tropical convection because convection is parameterized. In idealized cloud-resolving simulations, it is possible to identify not only the changes in local precipitation fluxes, but also the factors responsible for those changes.

There are many properties of convection that can change as the atmosphere warms, each of which could produce deviations from CC scaling. These properties include the effective water-vapor gradient, cloud pressure depth, and cloud velocity. A simple theory is developed that predicts the changes in these properties consistent with CC scaling. Convection in the cloud-resolving simulations is found to change as predicted by this theory, leading to an ∼20% increase in local precipitation fluxes when the CO2 concentration is doubled. Overall, an increase in CO2 leads to more vigorous convection, composed of clouds that are wider, taller, and faster.

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David M. Romps

Abstract

Even in a small domain, it can be prohibitively expensive to run cloud-resolving greenhouse gas warming experiments due to the long equilibration time. Here, a technique is introduced that reduces the computational cost of these experiments by an order of magnitude: instead of fixing the carbon dioxide concentration and equilibrating the sea surface temperature (SST), this technique fixes the SST and equilibrates the carbon dioxide concentration. Using this approach in a cloud-resolving model of radiative–convective equilibrium (RCE), the equilibrated SST is obtained as a continuous function of carbon dioxide concentrations spanning 1 ppmv to nearly 10 000 ppmv, revealing a dramatic increase in equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) at higher temperatures. This increase in ECS is due to both an increase in forcing and a decrease in the feedback parameter. In addition, the technique is used to obtain the direct effects of carbon dioxide (i.e., the rapid adjustments) over a wide range of SSTs. Overall, the direct effect of carbon dioxide offsets a quarter of the increase in precipitation from warming, reduces the shallow cloud fraction by a small amount, and has no impact on convective available potential energy (CAPE).

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David M. Romps

Abstract

Analytic solutions are derived for a convecting atmosphere with mean ascent using a zero-buoyancy bulk-plume approximation for moist convection. It has been suggested that such solutions should serve as a model for the relationship between humidity, instability, and precipitation in the tropics, but it is shown here that this interpretation is incompatible with the observed weak temperature gradient (WTG). Instead, the solutions can be used to understand the atmospheric state averaged over all tropical convecting regions. Using the analytic solutions in this way, they predict the changes in humidity, instability, and precipitation as a function of the size of the moist patch in a convectively aggregated state.

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David M. Romps

Abstract

A method is introduced for directly measuring convective entrainment and detrainment in a cloud-resolving simulation. This technique is used to quantify the errors in the entrainment and detrainment estimates obtained using the standard bulk-plume method. The bulk-plume method diagnoses these rates from the convective flux of some conserved tracer, such as total water in nonprecipitating convection. By not accounting for the variability of this tracer in clouds and in the environment, it is argued that the bulk-plume equations systematically underestimate entrainment. Using tracers with different vertical profiles, it is also shown that the bulk-plume estimates are tracer dependent and, in some cases, unphysical. The new direct-measurement technique diagnoses entrainment and detrainment at the gridcell level without any recourse to conserved tracers. Using this method in large-eddy simulations of shallow and deep convection, it is found that the bulk-plume method underestimates entrainment by roughly a factor of 2. The directly measured entrainment rates are then compared to cloud height and cloud buoyancy. Contrary to existing theories, fractional entrainment is not found to scale like the inverse of height, the cloud buoyancy, or the gradient of cloud buoyancy. On the other hand, fractional detrainment is found to scale linearly with cloud buoyancy. Finally, direct measurement is used to diagnose the spatial distribution of entrainment and detrainment during the evolution of an individual deep cumulonimbus.

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David M. Romps

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This paper explores whether cumulus drag (i.e., the damping of winds by convective momentum transport) can be described by an effective Rayleigh drag (i.e., the damping of winds on a constant time scale). Analytical expressions are derived for the damping time scale and descent speed of wind profiles as caused by unorganized convection. Unlike Rayleigh drag, which has a constant damping time scale and zero descent speed, the theory predicts a damping time scale and a descent speed that both depend on the vertical wavelength of the wind profile. These results predict that short wavelengths damp faster and descend faster than long wavelengths, and these predictions are confirmed using large-eddy simulations. Both theory and simulations predict that the convective damping of large-scale circulations occurs on a time scale of O(1–10) days for vertical wavelengths in the range of 2–10 km.

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David M. Romps

Abstract

A weak pressure gradient (WPG) approximation is introduced for parameterizing supradomain-scale (SDS) dynamics, and this method is compared to the relaxed form of the weak temperature gradient (WTG) approximation in the context of 3D, linearized, damped, Boussinesq equations. It is found that neither method is able to capture the two different time scales present in the full 3D equations. Nevertheless, WPG is argued to have several advantages over WTG. First, WPG correctly predicts the magnitude of the steady-state buoyancy anomalies generated by an applied heating, but WTG underestimates these buoyancy anomalies. It is conjectured that this underestimation may short-circuit the natural feedbacks between convective mass fluxes and local temperature anomalies. Second, WPG correctly predicts the adiabatic lifting of air below an initial buoyancy perturbation; WTG is unable to capture this nonlocal effect. It is hypothesized that this may be relevant to moist convection, where adiabatic lifting can reduce convective inhibition. Third, WPG agrees with the full 3D equations on the counterintuitive fact that an isolated heating applied to a column of Boussinesq fluid leads to a steady ascent with zero column-integrated buoyancy. This falsifies the premise of the relaxed form of WTG, which assumes that vertical velocity is proportional to buoyancy.

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David M. Romps

Abstract

A standard convention in moist thermodynamics, adopted by D. M. Romps and others, is to set the specific energy and entropy of dry air and liquid water to zero at the triple-point temperature and pressure. P. Marquet claims that this convention leads to physically incorrect results. To support this claim, Marquet presents numerical calculations of a lifted parcel. It is shown here that the claim is false and that the numerical calculations of Marquet are in error. In the context of a simple two-phase thermodynamic system, an analysis is presented here of the freedoms one has to choose additive constants in the definitions of energy and entropy. Many other misconceptions are corrected as well.

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David M. Romps

Abstract

Many analytic, but approximate, expressions have been proposed for the height of the lifting condensation level (LCL), including the popular expressions by Espy, Bolton, and Lawrence. Here, the exact, explicit, analytic expression is derived for an air parcel’s LCL as a function of its temperature and relative humidity. Unlike previous analytic expressions, some of which can have errors as high as hundreds or thousands of meters, this exact expression is accurate to within the uncertainty of empirical vapor pressure measurements: this translates into an uncertainty of around 5 m for all temperatures and relative humidities. An exact, explicit, analytic expression for the lifting deposition level (LDL) is also derived, and its behavior is compared to the LCL. At sufficiently cold temperatures, aerosols freeze homogeneously below the LCL; an approximate, implicit, analytic expression is given for this lifting freezing level (LFL). By comparing the LCL, LDL, and LFL, it is found that a well-mixed boundary layer can have an ice-supersaturated layer that is no thicker than 400 m.

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