The Contribution of Mesoscale Motions to the Mass and Heat Fluxes of an Intense Tropical Convective System

Colleen A. Leary Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle 98195

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Robert A. Houze Jr. Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle 98195

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Abstract

The existence of extensive precipitating anvil clouds in intense tropical convection suggests that vertical air motions associated with the anvil clouds play a significant role in the mass and heat budgets of these systems. This paper uses three different sets of assumptions about the water budget of an idealized mesoscale convective system to test the sensitivity of diagnostic calculations of vertical transports of mass and heat to the inclusion or exclusion of anvil clouds and their associated mesoscale vertical air motions. The properties of the mesoscale updraft and downdraft are evaluated using observations and the results of modeling studies. When a mesoscale updraft and downdraft are included in the diagnostic calculations, the profiles of vertical transports of mass and moist static energy are both qualitatively and quantitatively different from the results when mesoscale vertical air motions are excluded. Inclusion of mesoscale vertical motions in the diagnostic calculations leads to smaller upward mass transports below 4 km, larger upward mass sports above 4 km, less cooling below 4 km, and more cooling between 4.5 and 6.5 km than are obtained when mesoscale motions are not included in the calculations. These results imply that the effect of mesoscale vertical air motions on cloud mass flux and net beating profiles should be considered when parameterizing the effects of tropical convection on the larger scale environment.

Abstract

The existence of extensive precipitating anvil clouds in intense tropical convection suggests that vertical air motions associated with the anvil clouds play a significant role in the mass and heat budgets of these systems. This paper uses three different sets of assumptions about the water budget of an idealized mesoscale convective system to test the sensitivity of diagnostic calculations of vertical transports of mass and heat to the inclusion or exclusion of anvil clouds and their associated mesoscale vertical air motions. The properties of the mesoscale updraft and downdraft are evaluated using observations and the results of modeling studies. When a mesoscale updraft and downdraft are included in the diagnostic calculations, the profiles of vertical transports of mass and moist static energy are both qualitatively and quantitatively different from the results when mesoscale vertical air motions are excluded. Inclusion of mesoscale vertical motions in the diagnostic calculations leads to smaller upward mass transports below 4 km, larger upward mass sports above 4 km, less cooling below 4 km, and more cooling between 4.5 and 6.5 km than are obtained when mesoscale motions are not included in the calculations. These results imply that the effect of mesoscale vertical air motions on cloud mass flux and net beating profiles should be considered when parameterizing the effects of tropical convection on the larger scale environment.

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