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Luis Garcia-Carreras, John H. Marsham, and Dominick V. Spracklen

Abstract

Irrigated agriculture accounts for 20% of global cropland area and may alter climate locally and globally, but feedbacks on clouds and rainfall remain highly uncertain, particularly in arid regions. Nonrenewable groundwater in arid regions accounts for 20% of global irrigation water demand, and quantifying these feedbacks is crucial for the prediction of long-term water use in a changing climate. Here, satellite data are used to show how irrigated crops in an arid environment alter land surface properties, cloud cover, and rainfall patterns. Land surface temperatures (LSTs) over the cropland are 5–7 K lower than their surroundings, despite a lower albedo, suggesting that Bowen ratio is strongly reduced (and latent heat fluxes increased) over the irrigated cropland. Daytime cloud cover is increased by up to 15% points (a relative increase of 60%), with increased cloud development in the morning and a greater afternoon peak in cloud. Cloud cover is significantly correlated with interannual variations in vegetation and LST. Afternoon rainfall also appears to be enhanced around the irrigation. The cloud feedback is the opposite of what has been previously observed in tropical and semiarid regions, suggesting different processes drive land–atmosphere feedbacks in very dry environments. Increased cloud and rainfall, and associated increases in diffuse radiation and reductions in temperature, are likely to benefit vegetation growth. Predictions of changes in crop productivity due to climate change and the impacts of global land-use change on climate and the use of water resources would therefore benefit from including these effects.

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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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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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Alexander J. Roberts, John H. Marsham, and Peter Knippertz

Abstract

Reanalysis and operational analysis products are routinely used as the best estimates of the atmospheric state for operational and research purposes. However, different models, assimilation techniques, and assimilated datasets lead to differences between products. Here, such differences in the distribution of low-level water vapor over summertime West Africa are analyzed, as reflected in the zonal mean position of the leading edge of the West African monsoon [the intertropical discontinuity (ITD)] using five reanalyses [NCEP–NCAR, NCEP–Department of Energy (DOE), the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA), the Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR), and the Interim ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim)] and two operational analyses [Global Forecast System (GFS) and ECMWF] during the 11 monsoon seasons (April–September) from 2000 to 2010. Specific humidity differences regularly reach 50% of the mean value over areas spanning hundreds of kilometers and often coincide with northward excursions of the ITD that last several days and bring unusual rainfall to the Sahel and Sahara. The largest disagreements occur during the southward retreat of the ITD and are connected with anomalously high values of aerosol optical depth, consistent with the production of haboob dust storms. The results suggest that known errors in the representation of moist convection and cold pools may contribute to the identified disagreements. A large reduction in disagreement occurs in 2006, when upper-air observations were enhanced during the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis (AMMA) campaign, pointing to an insufficient observational constraint of the (re)analyses in other years. It is hoped that this work will raise awareness of the limited reliability of (re)analysis products over West Africa during the summer, particularly during northward surges of the ITD, and will instigate further work to improve their quality.

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Qian Huang, John H. Marsham, Douglas J. Parker, Wenshou Tian, and Tammy Weckwerth

Abstract

Rolls observed during the Small Cumulus Microphysical Study (SCMS) field campaign are simulated using a large eddy model (LEM). The simulated boundary layer properties were in a good agreement with sounding profiles and aircraft observations, and the observed boundary layer rolls were reproduced by the model. Rolls started to decay when −Zi/L exceeded a threshold, with a value between 5 and 45. Here Zi and L refer to the height of the top of convective boundary layer and the Monin–Obukhov length, respectively. This value was found to depend on a nondimensional combination of the low-level wind shear, the height of the CBL, and the eddy velocity scale. Larger surface buoyancy fluxes and smaller shears gave higher thresholds. For the case modeled, rolls persisted for surface buoyancy fluxes less than 110 W m−2, and formed for boundary layer wind shears greater than 5 × 10−3 s−1, which is consistent with previous studies.

The simulated roll convection was compared with a nonroll simulation, which was identical except for the wind and the wind shear used. In both the roll and nonroll cases the variability in convective inhibition (CIN) was dominated by the variability in the source air, rather than the lifting of the top of the boundary layer by the convection. Stronger moist updrafts existed in the nonroll convection, whereas roll convection gave a more symmetrical distribution of up and downdrafts, with stronger downdrafts than the nonroll case. The nonroll convection simulations have lower minimum values of CIN and clouds develop 15 min earlier in this case.

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Caroline M. Wainwright, John H. Marsham, David P. Rowell, Declan L. Finney, and Emily Black

Abstract

The East African precipitation seasonal cycle is of significant societal importance, and yet the current generation of coupled global climate models fails to correctly capture this seasonality. The use of convective parameterization schemes is a known source of precipitation bias in such models. Recently, a high-resolution regional model was used to produce the first pan-African climate change simulation that explicitly models convection. Here, this is compared with a corresponding parameterized-convection simulation to explore the effect of the parameterization on representation of East Africa precipitation seasonality. Both models capture current seasonality, although an overestimate in September–October in the parameterized simulation leads to an early bias in the onset of the boreal autumn short rains, associated with higher convective instability and near-surface moist static energy. This bias is removed in the explicit model. Under future climate change both models show the short rains getting later and wetter. For the boreal spring long rains, the explicit convection simulation shows the onset advancing but the parameterized simulation shows little change. Over Uganda and western Kenya both simulations show rainfall increases in the January–February dry season and large increases in boreal summer and autumn rainfall, particularly in the explicit convection model, changing the shape of the seasonal cycle, with potential for pronounced socioeconomic impacts. Interannual variability is similar in both models. Results imply that parameterization of convection may be a source of uncertainty for projections of changes in seasonal timing from global models and that potentially impactful changes in seasonality should be highlighted to users.

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

Abstract

Accurate prediction of the commencement of local rainfall over West Africa can provide vital information for local stakeholders and regional planners. However, in comparison with analysis of the regional onset of the West African monsoon, the spatial variability of the local monsoon onset has not been extensively explored. One of the main reasons behind the lack of local onset forecast analysis is the spatial noisiness of local rainfall. A new method that evaluates the spatial scale at which local onsets are coherent across West Africa is presented. This new method can be thought of as analogous to a regional signal against local noise analysis of onset. This method highlights regions where local onsets exhibit a quantifiable degree of spatial consistency (denoted local onset regions or LORs). It is found that local onsets exhibit a useful amount of spatial agreement, with LORs apparent across the entire studied domain; this is in contrast to previously found results. Identifying local onset regions and understanding their variability can provide important insight into the spatial limit of monsoon predictability. While local onset regions can be found over West Africa, their size is much smaller than the scale found for seasonal rainfall homogeneity. A potential use of local onset regions is presented that shows the link between the annual intertropical front progression and local agronomic onset.

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John H. Marsham, Stanley B. Trier, Tammy M. Weckwerth, and James W. Wilson

Abstract

The evolution of a mesoscale convective system (MCS) observed during the International H2O Project that took place on the Great Plains of the United States is described. The MCS formed at night in a frontal zone, with four initiation episodes occurring between approximately 0000 and 0400 local time. Radar, radiosonde, and surface data together show that at least three of the initiation episodes were elevated, occurring from moist conditionally unstable layers located above the boundary layer, which had been stabilized by previous MCSs. Initiation occurred in northwest–southeast-oriented lines where a southerly nocturnal low-level jet terminated, generating elevated convergence. One initiation episode was observed using the S-band dual-polarization Doppler radar (S-Pol) and occurred at the intersection of this convergence zone with a propagating wave. Calculations of the Scorer parameter were consistent with wave trapping. Downdrafts from the developing convection generated both waves and bores, which propagated ahead of the cold pool, initiating further convection. Between 0700 and 1000 local time, the structure and orientation of the MCS evolved to a southwest–northeast-oriented squall line, which built a cold-pool outflow that could lift near-surface air to its level of free convection. The weaker cold pool in the eastern part of the domain was consistent with the greater impacts of a previous MCS there. To the authors’ knowledge, this case study provides the first detailed observational investigation of elevated initiation leading to surface-based convection, a process that appears to be an important mechanism for the generation of long-lived MCSs from elevated initiation.

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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.

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Stanley B. Trier, John H. Marsham, Christopher A. Davis, and David A. Ahijevych

Abstract

A convection-permitting numerical model is used to simulate the postsunrise reorganization of a nocturnal mesoscale convective system (MCS) observed over western and central Oklahoma on 13 June 2002 during the International H2O (IHOP_2002) Field Experiment. The MCS reorganization consists of a transition from northwest–southeast-oriented convective rainbands near sunrise to a single northeast–southwest (NE–SW)-oriented convective rainband with trailing stratiform precipitation later in the morning.

Results indicate the importance of environmental preconditioning on MCS reorganization. In particular, the development of the NE–SW rainband that redefines the MCS organization is facilitated by a similarly oriented zone of antecedent mesoscale upward motion, which increases the depth of large water vapor mixing ratios. This allows convective updrafts to be fed primarily by moist and conditionally unstable air from 1 to 2.5 km AGL in the NE–SW-oriented rainband, which lacks a surface cold pool during its incipient postsunrise stage.

The MCS develops a strong surface cold pool from latent cooling–induced downdrafts by midmorning and evolves into an upshear-tilted squall-type system. These downdrafts and the resulting cold pool are not necessary for the overall reorganization and maintenance of the MCS in this environment where earlier mesoscale ascent has occurred. However, the latent cooling from downdrafts does influence the MCS strength, vertical structure, and horizontal motion by early in the postsunrise stage. In contrast, surface heating of the preconvective environment has little effect on the strength and structural characteristics of the MCS until midday, by which time the convection has become primarily surface based.

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