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A Sensitivity Study of Convective Cloud Formation by Vegetation Forcing with Different Atmospheric Conditions

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  • 1 Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina Slate University, Raleigh, North Carolina
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Abstract

Variable vegetation cover is a possible trigger for convection, especially in semiarid areas due to differential surface forcing. A two-dimensional numerical model with explicit cloud physics and a detailed vegetation parameterization scheme is used to investigate the role of vegetation differences in triggering convective cloud formation. The ground surface in all simulations includes two irrigated vegetation areas with a dry steppe in the center of the domain. The effects of atmospheric stability, ambient moisture profile, and horizontal heating scale are investigated.

Atmospheric stability controls the growth of convective circulations. Thermal circulations form at the interfaces between the vegetated areas and the dry steppe. In the more stable environment, two distinct convective cells persist; they merge into one cell in the less stable cases. The existence of low-level moisture controls the timing and persistence of clouds that form. An interesting result is the earlier dissipation of clouds in less stable cases, as greater mixing with drier air from aloft leads to the dilution of the cloud water. Since the largest thermal forcing exists at the interfaces, length of the steppe interacts with the stability to control the merger of the cells. The two cells merge quickly into one for narrow horizontal heating. For the widest heating scale studied, no merger occurs.

Abstract

Variable vegetation cover is a possible trigger for convection, especially in semiarid areas due to differential surface forcing. A two-dimensional numerical model with explicit cloud physics and a detailed vegetation parameterization scheme is used to investigate the role of vegetation differences in triggering convective cloud formation. The ground surface in all simulations includes two irrigated vegetation areas with a dry steppe in the center of the domain. The effects of atmospheric stability, ambient moisture profile, and horizontal heating scale are investigated.

Atmospheric stability controls the growth of convective circulations. Thermal circulations form at the interfaces between the vegetated areas and the dry steppe. In the more stable environment, two distinct convective cells persist; they merge into one cell in the less stable cases. The existence of low-level moisture controls the timing and persistence of clouds that form. An interesting result is the earlier dissipation of clouds in less stable cases, as greater mixing with drier air from aloft leads to the dilution of the cloud water. Since the largest thermal forcing exists at the interfaces, length of the steppe interacts with the stability to control the merger of the cells. The two cells merge quickly into one for narrow horizontal heating. For the widest heating scale studied, no merger occurs.

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