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Todd P. Lane and Fuqing Zhang

Abstract

An idealized cloud-system-resolving model simulation is used to examine the coupling between a tropical cloud population and the mesoscale gravity waves that it generates. Spectral analyses of the cloud and gravity wave fields identify a clear signal of coupling between the clouds and a deep tropospheric gravity wave mode with a vertical wavelength that matches the depth of the convection, which is about two-thirds of the tropospheric depth. This vertical wavelength and the period of the waves, defined by a characteristic convective time scale, means that the horizontal wavelength is constrained through the dispersion relation. Indeed, the wave–convection coupling manifests at the appropriate wavelength, with the emergence of quasi-regular cloud-system spacing of order 100 km. It is shown that cloud systems at this spacing achieve a quasi-resonant state, at least for a few convective life cycles. Such regular spacing is a key component of cloud organization and is likely a contributor to the processes controlling the upscale growth of convective systems. Other gravity wave processes are also elucidated, including their apparent role in the maintenance of convective systems by providing a mechanism for renewed convective activity and system longevity.

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Campbell D. Watson and Todd P. Lane

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This study explores the mesoscale processes that led to the development of two prefrontal precipitation events in the Australian Alps on 29–30 October 2010. The synoptic setting was characterized by the passage of an interacting front and prefrontal trough across southern Australia. Observations and model simulations revealed that when the prefrontal trough entered southeast Australia it resembled a density current advancing into a stable nocturnal layer, forming a bore at its leading edge. The bore detached from and propagated ahead of the prefrontal trough and became undular, supported by a wave-ducting mechanism. The undular bore was observed in the Doppler wind field of a radar, parts of which were collocated with bands of reflectivity. Strong winds coincident with this band of reflectivity suggest the undular bore triggered convection that eventually led to the bore’s demise. An ensemble of high-resolution model simulations (with perturbed initial and boundary conditions) was used to understand the key processes affecting the undular bore and two prefrontal precipitation events. While no member of the ensemble reproduced the first prefrontal precipitation event, at least six members (20%) reproduced parts of the second prefrontal precipitation event. Despite the low precipitation predictability, analysis of the ensemble suggests the undular bore was both a predictable phenomenon and integral to the initiation and/or evolution of the two prefrontal precipitation events.

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Martin Bergemann, Christian Jakob, and Todd P. Lane

Abstract

Coastally associated rainfall is a common feature, especially in tropical and subtropical regions. However, it has been difficult to quantify the contribution of coastal rainfall features to the overall local rainfall. The authors develop a novel technique to objectively identify precipitation associated with land–sea interaction and apply it to satellite-based rainfall estimates. The Maritime Continent, the Bight of Panama, Madagascar, and the Mediterranean are found to be regions where land–sea interactions play a crucial role in the formation of precipitation. In these regions ~40%–60% of the total rainfall can be related to coastline effects. Because of its importance for the climate system, the Maritime Continent is a region of particular interest, with high overall amounts of rainfall and large fractions resulting from land–sea interactions throughout the year. To demonstrate the utility of this study’s identification method, the authors investigate the influence of several modes of variability, such as the Madden–Julian oscillation and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, on coastal rainfall behavior. The results suggest that during large-scale suppressed convective conditions, coastal effects tend to modulate the rainfall over the Maritime Continent leading to enhanced rainfall over land regions compared to the surrounding oceans. The authors propose that the novel objective dataset of coastally influenced precipitation can be used in a variety of ways, such as to inform cumulus parameterization or as an additional tool for evaluating the simulation of coastal precipitation within weather and climate models.

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Todd P. Lane and Jason C. Knievel

Abstract

Over the past decade, numerous numerical modeling studies have shown that deep convective clouds can produce gravity waves that induce a significant vertical flux of horizontal momentum. Such studies used models with horizontal grid spacings of O(1 km) and produced strong gravity waves with horizontal wavelengths greater than about 20 km. This paper is an examination of how simulated gravity waves and their momentum flux are sensitive to model resolution. It is shown that increases in horizontal resolution produce more power in waves with shorter horizontal wavelengths. This change in the gravity waves’ spectra influences their vertical propagation. In some cases, gravity waves that were vertically propagating in coarse simulations become vertically trapped in fine simulations, which strongly influences the vertical flux of horizontal momentum.

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Todd P. Lane and Robert D. Sharman

Abstract

Deep moist convection generates turbulence in the clear air above and around developing clouds, penetrating convective updrafts and mature thunderstorms. This turbulence can be due to shearing instabilities caused by strong flow deformations near the cloud top, and also to breaking gravity waves generated by cloud–environment interactions. Turbulence above and around deep convection is an important safety issue for aviation, and improved understanding of the conditions that lead to out-of-cloud turbulence formation may result in better turbulence avoidance guidelines or forecasting capabilities. In this study, a series of high-resolution two- and three-dimensional model simulations of a severe thunderstorm are conducted to examine the sensitivity of above-cloud turbulence to a variety of background flow conditions—in particular, the above-cloud wind shear and static stability. Shortly after the initial convective overshoot, the above-cloud turbulence and mixing are caused by local instabilities in the vicinity of the cloud interfacial boundary. At later times, when the convection is more mature, gravity wave breaking farther aloft dominates the turbulence generation. This wave breaking is caused by critical-level interactions, where the height of the critical level is controlled by the above-cloud wind shear. The strength of the above-cloud wind shear has a strong influence on the occurrence and intensity of above-cloud turbulence, with intermediate shears generating more extensive regions of turbulence, and strong shear conditions producing the most intense turbulence. Also, more stable above-cloud environments are less prone to turbulence than less stable situations. Among other things, these results highlight deficiencies in current turbulence avoidance guidelines in use by the aviation industry.

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Jackson Tan, Christian Jakob, and Todd P. Lane

Abstract

The use of cloud regimes in identifying tropical convection and the associated large-scale atmospheric properties is investigated. The regimes are derived by applying cluster analysis to satellite retrievals of daytime-averaged frequency distributions of cloud-top pressure and optical thickness within grids of 280 km by 280 km resolution from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project between 1983 and 2008. An investigation of atmospheric state variables as a function of cloud regime reveals that the regimes are useful indicators of the archetypal states of the tropical atmosphere ranging from a strongly convecting regime with large stratiform cloudiness to strongly suppressed conditions showing a large coverage with stratocumulus clouds. The convectively active regimes are shown to be moist and unstable with large-scale ascending motion, while convectively suppressed regimes are dry and stable with large-scale descending winds. Importantly, the cloud regimes also represent several transitional states. In particular, the cloud regime approach allows for the identification of the “building blocks” of tropical convection, namely, the regimes dominated by stratiform, deep, and congestus convection. The availability of the daily distribution of these building blocks for more than 20 years opens new avenues for the diagnosis of convective behavior as well as the evaluation of the representation of convection in global and regional models.

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Claire L. Vincent and Todd P. Lane

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Changes in the diurnal precipitation cycle as the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) propagates through the Maritime Continent are investigated to explore the processes behind seaward-propagating precipitation northeast of New Guinea. Satellite rainfall estimates from TRMM 3B42 and the Climate Prediction Center morphing technique (CMORPH) are combined with simulations from the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model with a horizontal resolution of 4 km.

Comparison with 24-h rain gauge measurements indicates that both satellite estimates and the WRF Model exhibit systematic biases. Despite these biases, the changing patterns of offshore precipitation with the passage of the MJO show good consistency between satellite estimates and the WRF Model. In the few days prior to the main MJO envelope, light background wind, relatively clear skies, and an increasingly moist environment promote favorable conditions for the diurnal precipitation cycle.

Two distinct processes are identified: 100–200 km from the coast, precipitation moves offshore as a squall line with a propagation speed of 3–5 m s−1. Farther offshore, precipitation propagates with a speed close to 18 m s−1and is associated with an inertia–gravity wave generated by diurnally oscillating heating from radiative and moist convective processes over the land. A gravity wave signature is evident even after the MJO active period when there is little precipitation. By correcting for the background flow perpendicular to the coast, potential temperature anomalies for the lead-up, active, and follow-on MJO periods are shown to collapse to a remarkably invariant shape for a given time of day.

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Tiffany A. Shaw and Todd P. Lane

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This study examines the characteristics of convective momentum transport (CMT) and gravity wave momentum transport (GWMT) in two-dimensional cloud-system-resolving model simulations, including the relationships between the two transports. A linear group velocity criterion is shown to objectively separate CMT and GWMT. The GWMT contribution is mostly consistent with upward-propagating gravity waves and is present in the troposphere and the stratosphere. The CMT contribution forms a large part of the residual (nonupward-propagating contribution) and dominates the fluxes in the troposphere. Additional analysis of the vertical sensible heat flux supports the physical interpretation of the two contributions, further isolating the effects of unstable convection from vertically propagating gravity waves.

The role of transient and nonconservative (friction and diabatic heating) processes in generating momentum flux and their dependence on changes in convective organization was assessed using a pseudomomentum budget analysis. Nonconservative effects were found to dominate the transports; the GWMT contribution involved a diabatic source region in the troposphere and a dissipative sink region in the stratosphere. The CMT contribution was consistent with transport between the boundary layer and free troposphere via tilted convection. Transient buoyancy–vorticity correlations highlighted wave sources in the region of convective outflow and the boundary layer. These sources were akin to the previously described “mechanical oscillator” mechanism. Fluxes associated with this upper-level source were most sensitive to convective organization, highlighting the mechanism by which changes in organization are communicated to GWMT. The results elucidate important interactions between CMT and GWMT, adding further weight to suggestions that the two transports should be linked in parameterizations.

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Claire L. Vincent and Todd P. Lane

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The Maritime Continent is one of the wettest regions on the planet and has been shown to be important for global budgets of heat and moisture. Convection in the region, however, varies on several interrelated scales, making it difficult to quantify the precipitation climate and understand the key processes. For example, the diurnal cycle in precipitation over the land varies substantially according to the phase of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), and the diurnal precipitation cycle over the water is coupled to that over the land, in some cases for distances of over 1000 km from the coast.

Here, a 10-yr austral summer climatology of diurnal and MJO-scale variations in rain rate over the land and sea over the Maritime Continent is presented. The climatology is based on mesoscale model simulations with a horizontal grid length of 4 km and satellite precipitation estimates. The amplitude of the observed diurnal precipitation cycle is shown to reach a maximum just prior to the MJO active phase, with a weaker secondary maximum after the MJO active phase. Although these two maxima also exist in the modeled diurnal precipitation cycle, there is less difference between the maxima before and after the MJO active phase than in the observations. The modeled sea-breeze circulation is also shown to possess approximately equal maxima just before and just after the MJO active period, suggesting that the asymmetry of the diurnal precipitation cycle about the MJO active period is related more to moisture availability than kinematic forcing.

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Dragana Zovko-Rajak and Todd P. Lane

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This study explores the generation of turbulence in the upper outflow regions of simulated idealized mesoscale convective systems. The simulated storms are shown to generate parameterized turbulence that occurs significant distances (>100 km) from the main convective regions, in both the clear air surrounding the convection and low simulated reflectivity regions with cloud ice but negligible amounts of graupel and snow. The source of the turbulence is related to Kelvin–Helmholtz instabilities that occur in the shear zones above and below the storm-induced upper-level outflow jet that is centered near the tropopause; the model produces resolved-scale billows within regions of low gradient Richardson number. Short-scale gravity waves are also coincident with the regions of turbulence, become trapped within the jet core, and appear to be generated by the shear instability. Additional experiments with different initial upper-level wind shear show similar mechanisms to those simulations with no initial upper-level shear. These results help elucidate the dynamics of turbulence generation near convection, which has important implications for the aviation industry and the fundamental understanding of how convective clouds interact with their environment.

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