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Douglas J. Parker

Abstract

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Douglas J. Parker
and
Alan J. Thorpe

Abstract

It is shown here that there exists a regime of balanced frontogenesis that is forced almost entirely by the diabatic hating due to convection at a front. This theory is explored in the context of the two-dimensional semigeostrophic equations with an Eady basic state: convection is parameterized to be dependent on the low-level moisture convergence of the cross-frontal ageostrophic flow, in accordance with recent diagnostic studies. The significant result is that the growth rate of the convective frontal system becomes independent of the total wavelength of the domain once the diabatic heating exceeds a relatively large threshold magnitude. In this regime the frontal zone has a width and structure dependent on the heating magnitude but not on the wavelength. The system is described as “solitary” or “isolated” since the dynamics are self-contained and independent of the far field.

The energetics of the system have a diabatic conversion that is an order of magnitude greater than that due to the large-scale alongfront temperature gradient. The large-scale forcing is, however, necessary as a catalyst in maintaining a weak ageostrophic convergence that allows the convective heating to be triggered. The constraint of alongfront geostrophic balance means that convective forcing alone cannot maintain frontogenesis. It is suggested that the dynamics exhibited by the convectively dominated front may also be important in the study of midlatitude squall lines.

The propagation and dynamics of the front are interpreted in terms of the notion of a “diabatic Rossby wave.”

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Douglas J. Parker
and
Ralph R. Burton

Abstract

This paper uses simple one- and two-dimensional models to investigate the influence of a propagating line of convective forcing on a tropical jet, representative of the African easterly jet. The results are used to infer changes in the environment of the forcing region, which would in reality tend to influence the evolution of the storm through convective mechanisms, which are not resolved here.

From linear analytical solutions with a rigid lid it is found that the influence of the propagation of the forcing region is to intensify the response on the upstream side of the forcing: this result is confirmed in two-dimensional nonlinear simulations. When linear wave modes are computed in a basic state that includes the jet structure, small sensitivities to the basic-state jet are found.

The two-dimensional nonlinear model has been used further to compute the change in the environmental structure as a result of the forcing. Principally, it is found that the modes of response to the forcing may be associated with characteristic changes in the basic-state shear, convective available potential energy (CAPE), and convective inhibition (CIN), which would be expected to have significant influence on the convective system itself.

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Wenshou Tian
and
Douglas J. Parker

Abstract

Effects of orography on boundary layer shallow convection under various background winds are studied using a two-dimensional model together with scaling analysis. Under a motionless background state the flow response over a heated hill is a vortex pair, with one horizontal vortex over each slope. Additional lifting of the inversion by this vortex pair is estimated by w t /N, with w t being the intensity of the terrain-induced thermal circulation, and N the Brunt–Väisälä frequency, for which a simple expression is given based on heat engine framework. Modification of the CBL top by terrain-induced waves is quantified using linear gravity wave theory in a two-layer atmosphere configuration. These simple estimates of the CBL-top perturbation are found to be consistent with the model results when waves and convection dominate the flow pattern.

A convective core is found to occur over high hills when the winds are light, developing in the late afternoon when the CBL depth is high. A scaling is proposed to determine the existence of the convective core in terms of hill slope, background winds, boundary layer depth, and tropospheric stability.

The downstream modification of convection by terrain-related processes is also examined. Under light wind conditions, the reversed thermal circulation in the lee and corresponding downward motions may suppress thermal eddies in the vicinity of the lee of a hill.

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Matthew R. Clark
and
Douglas J. Parker

Abstract

Observations from a mesoscale network of automatic weather stations are analyzed for 15 U.K. cold fronts exhibiting narrow cold frontal rainbands (NCFRs). Seven of the NCFRs produced tornadoes. A time-compositing approach is applied to the minute-resolution data using the radar-observed motion vectors of NCFR precipitation segments. Interpolated onto a 5-km grid, the analyses resolve much of the small-mesoscale structure in surface wind, temperature, and pressure fields. Postfrontal winds varied substantially between cases. Tornadic NCFRs exhibited a near-90° wind veer and little or no reduction in wind speed on NCFR passage; these attributes were generally associated with large vertical vorticity, horizontal convergence, and vorticity stretching at the NCFR. Nontornadic NCFRs exhibited smaller wind veers and/or marked decreases in wind speed across the NCFR, and weaker vorticity, convergence, and vorticity stretching. In at least four tornadic NCFRs, increases in vorticity stretching preceded tornadogenesis. Doppler radar observations of two tornadic NCFRs revealed the development of misocyclones, some tornadic, during the latter stages of vorticity-stretching increase. The presence of cyclonic vortices only, in one case occurring at regular intervals along the NCFR, provides limited circumstantial evidence for horizontal shearing instability (HSI), though other vortex-genesis mechanisms cannot be discounted. Vorticity-stretching increases were associated with coherent mesoscale structures in the postfrontal wind field, which modified the cross-frontal convergence. Where cross-frontal convergence was large, extremely narrow, intense shear zones were observed; results suggest that tornadoes occurred when such shear zones developed in conjunction with conditional instability in the prefrontal environment.

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Wenshou Tian
,
Douglas J. Parker
, and
Charles A. D. Kilburn

Abstract

Radar and satellite images provide observations of convective rolls and other structures in the convective boundary layer (CBL), but the data are intermittent, and neither radar nor satellite gives a complete picture of roll circulation in the observed cases. As a consequence, numerical modeling is a useful complement to the observations, to investigate the temporal and spatial details of convective rolls. In this paper, observations of convective rolls over the south of England are described. Numerical simulations have been performed to investigate these rolls using the Boundary Layer Above Stationary Inhomogeneous Uneven Surfaces (BLASIUS) model, a relatively simple boundary layer code for flow over topography. The numerical results indicate that most of the features of the convective structures can be successfully reproduced, notably the roll orientation and spacing and the basic features of the cloud field. These features are in good agreement for two case studies, one with distinct rolls and the other with more dispersed convective structures and a time-dependent basic state. The model tends to predict the initial occurrence of rolls later than observed, and this time of occurrence is found to be influenced by model resolution.

The presence of low topography (with maximum height on the order of 30% of the CBL depth) may have a small influence on the average orientation and spacing, and the time of initial occurrence of modeled rolls. Local flow anomalies related to the hills are much more pronounced. These anomalies appear to be related to coherent patterns in the model cloud fields, with a tendency for more cloud cover upstream and over hills, and cloud clearing in the lee as a result of descent suppressing convective eddies. When the satellite imagery is combined with topography data, this kind of orographic control of the shallow convection by the topography is evident. The CBL height varies considerably in the early stages of CBL evolution over hilly topography, but when the convection is fully developed the CBL height is almost constant over the domain.

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Luis Garcia-Carreras
,
Douglas J. Parker
, and
John H. Marsham

Abstract

The aim of this study is to determine the mechanism that modulates the initiation of convection within convergence zones caused by land surface–induced mesoscale flows. An idealized modeling approach linked quantitatively to observations of vegetation breezes over tropical Benin was used. A large-eddy model was used with a prescribed land surface describing heterogeneities between crop and forest over which vegetation breezes have been observed. The total surface fluxes were constant but the Bowen ratio varied with vegetation type. The heterogeneous land surface created temperature differences consistent with observations, which in turn forced mesoscale winds and convection at the convergence zones over the crop boundaries. At these convergence zones optimum conditions for the initiation of convection were found in the afternoon; the equivalent potential temperature was higher in the convergence zones than over anywhere else in the domain, due to reduced entrainment, and the mesoscale convergence produced a persistent increase in vertical wind velocities of up to 0.5 m s−1 over a 5–10-km region. The relative importance of these two mechanisms depended on the synoptic conditions. When convective inhibition was weak, the thermodynamic conditions at the convergence zone were most important, as the triggering of convection was easily accomplished. However, when the thermodynamic profile inhibited convection, the mesoscale updrafts became essential for triggering in order to break through the inhibiting barrier. At the same time, subsidence over the forest produced a warm capping layer over the boundary layer top that suppressed convection over the forest throughout the afternoon.

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Xuefeng Cui
,
Douglas J. Parker
, and
Andrew P. Morse

Abstract

This paper investigates the response of the land surface and the lowest section of the atmospheric surface layer to rainfall events and through the subsequent drying out period. The impacts of these sequences of rainfall and drying events in controlling near-surface temperatures are put into the context of malaria transmission modeling using temperature controls on the survivability of mosquitoes that are developing the malaria parasite. Observations using measurements from a dwelling hut, constructed to a local design at Wankama near Niamey, Niger, show that as the atmosphere gets moister and colder following rainfall, there is a potentially higher risk of malaria transmission during the rainy days. As the atmosphere gets warmer and drier during the drying period, there is a potentially decreasing rate of malaria transmission as the increasing temperature reduces the survivability of the mosquitoes. A numerical weather prediction model comparison shows that the high-resolution limited-area model outperforms the global-scale model and shows good agreement with the observations. Statistical analysis from the model results confirms that the findings are not restricted to a single location or single time of the day. It was also found that air temperatures over forest areas do not change as much during the study period, since the longer memory of the soil moisture means there is relatively little influence from single rainfall events.

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Fran Morris
,
Juliane Schwendike
,
Douglas J. Parker
, and
Caroline Bain

Abstract

Understanding how mesoscale convection interacts with synoptic-scale circulations over West Africa is crucial for improving regional weather forecasts and developing convection parameterizations to address biases in climate models. A 10-yr pan-African convection-permitting simulation and a corresponding parameterized simulation for current-climate conditions are used to calculate the circulation budget around a synoptic region over the diurnal cycle, splitting processes that modulate circulation tendency (vorticity accumulation and vortex tilting) into diurnal mean and anomalous contributions. Dynamical fields are composited around precipitating grid cells during afternoon and overnight convection to understand how the mesoscale convection modulates synoptic-scale processes, and the composites are compared with an observational case. The dominant process modulating circulation tendency was found to be synoptic-scale vorticity accumulation, which is similar in the two simulations. The greatest difference between the simulated budgets was the tilting term. We propose that the tilting term is affected by convective momentum transport associated with precipitating systems crossing the boundary of the region, whereas the stretching term relies on the convergence and divergence induced by storms within the region. The simulation with parameterized convection captures the heating profile similarly to the simulation with explicit convection, but there are marked differences in convective momentum transport. An accurate vertical convergence structure as well as momentum transport must be simulated in parameterizations to correctly represent the impacts of convection on circulation.

Significance Statement

We used climate simulations with explicit convection and a convection parameterization to interrogate the relationship between mesoscale convection and synoptic-scale circulation over West Africa. We examined the typical behavior of mesoscale precipitating systems in both simulations and compared this with an observation of a storm. We also investigated how synoptic circulation changed over a diurnal cycle in both simulations. The biggest differences between the simulations were caused by how mesoscale systems in each simulation transport momentum when they cross the boundaries of a circulation, but the greatest impact on synoptic circulation was from the patterns of convergence and divergence induced by mesoscale systems, which are very similar in both simulations. Convection parameterizations should prioritize improving the representation of momentum transport.

Open access
Rory G. J. Fitzpatrick
,
Caroline L. Bain
,
Peter Knippertz
,
John H. Marsham
, and
Douglas J. Parker

Abstract

The onset of the West African monsoon (WAM) marks a vital time for local and regional stakeholders. While the seasonal progression of monsoon winds and the related migration of precipitation from the Guinea Coast toward the Sudan/Sahel is apparent, there exist contrasting man-made definitions of what the WAM onset means. Broadly speaking, onset can be analyzed regionally, locally, or over a designated intermediate scale. There are at least 18 distinct definitions of the WAM onset in publication, with little work done on comparing observed onset from different definitions or comparing onset realizations across different datasets and resolutions. Here, nine definitions have been calculated using multiple datasets of different metrics at different resolutions. It is found that mean regional onset dates are consistent across multiple datasets and different definitions. There is low interannual variability in regional onset, suggesting that regional seasonal forecasting of the onset provides few benefits over climatology. In contrast, local onsets show high spatial, interannual, and interdefinition variability. Furthermore, it is found that there is little correlation between local onset dates and regional onset dates across West Africa, implying a disharmony between regional measures of onset and the experience on a local scale. The results of this study show that evaluation of seasonal monsoon onset forecasts is far from straightforward. Given a seasonal forecasting model, it is possible to simultaneously have a good and a bad prediction of monsoon onset simply through selection of the onset definition and observational dataset used for comparison.

Open access