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Kyle Chudler and Steven A. Rutledge


The Propagation of Intraseasonal Oscillations (PISTON) field campaign took place in the waters of the western tropical North Pacific during the late summer and early fall of 2018 and 2019. During both research cruises, the Colorado State University SEA-POL polarimetric C-band weather radar obtained continuous 3D measurements of oceanic precipitation systems. This study provides an overview of the variability in convection observed during the PISTON cruises, and relates this variability to large-scale atmospheric conditions. Using an objective classification algorithm, precipitation features are identified and labeled by their size (isolated, sub-MCS, MCS) and degree of convective organization (nonlinear, linear). It is shown that although large mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) occurred infrequently (present in 13% of radar scans), they contributed a disproportionately large portion (56%) of the total rain volume. Conversely, small isolated features were present in 91% of scans, yet these features contributed just 11% of the total rain volume, with the bulk of the rainfall owing to warm rain production. Convective rain rates and 30-dBZ echo-top heights increased with feature size and degree of organization. MCSs occurred more frequently in periods of low-level southwesterly winds, and when low-level wind shear was enhanced. By compositing radar and sounding data by phases of easterly waves (of which there were several in 2018), troughs are shown to be associated with increased precipitation and a higher relative frequency of MCS feature occurrence, while ridges are shown to be associated with decreased precipitation and a higher relative frequency of isolated convective features.

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Weixin Xu, Steven A. Rutledge, and Kyle Chudler


Using 17-yr spaceborne precipitation radar measurements, this study investigates how diurnal cycles of rainfall and convective characteristics over the South China Sea region are modulated by the boreal summer intraseasonal oscillation (BSISO). Generally, diurnal cycles change significantly between suppressed and active BSISO periods. Over the Philippines and Indochina, where the low-level monsoon flows impinge on coast lines, diurnal cycles of rainfall and many convective properties are enhanced during suppressed periods. During active periods, diurnal variation of convection is still significant over land but diminishes over water. Also, afternoon peaks of rainfall and MCS populations over land are obviously extended in active periods, mainly through the enhancement of stratiform precipitation. Over Borneo, where the prevailing low-level winds are parallel to coasts, diurnal cycles (both onshore and offshore) are actually stronger during active periods. Radar profiles also demonstrate a pronounced nocturnal offshore propagation of deep convection over western Borneo in active periods. During suppressed periods, coastal afternoon convection over Borneo is reduced, and peak convection occurs over the mountains until the convective suppression is overcome in the late afternoon or evening. A major portion (>70%) of the total precipitation over the Philippines and Indochina during suppressed periods falls from afternoon isolated to medium-sized systems (<10 000 km2), but more than 70% of the active BSISO rainfall is contributed by nocturnal (after 1800 LT) broad precipitation systems (>10 000 km2). However, offshore total precipitation is dominated by large precipitation systems (>10 000 km2) regardless of BSISO phases and regions.

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Kyle Chudler, Weixin Xu, and Steven A. Rutledge


During the boreal summer, satellite-based precipitation estimates indicate a distinct maximum in rainfall off the west coast of the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Also occurring during the summer months is the boreal summer intraseasonal oscillation (BSISO), a main driver of intraseasonal variability in the region. This study investigates the diurnal variability of convective intensity, morphology, and precipitation coverage offshore and over the island of Luzon. The results are then composited by BSISO activity. Results of this study indicate that offshore precipitation is markedly increased during active BSISO phases, when strong low-level southwesterly monsoon winds bring increased moisture and enhanced convergence upwind of the island’s high terrain. A key finding of this work is the existence of an afternoon maximum in convection over Luzon even during active BSISO phases, when solar heating and instability are apparently reduced due to enhanced cloud cover. This result is important, as previous studies have shown in other areas of the tropics afternoon convection over landmasses is a key component to offshore precipitation. Although offshore precipitation is maximized in the evening hours during active phases, results indicate that precipitation frequently occurs over the ocean around the clock (both as organized systems and isolated, shallow showers), possibly owing to an increase in sensible and latent heat fluxes, vertical wind shear, and convergence of the monsoon flow with land features.

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