Momentum Transport by a Line of Cumulonimbus

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  • 1 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO 80307
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Abstract

The vertical transport of horizontal momentum normal to a line of cumulonimbus observed during GATE on 14 September 1974 is against the vertical momentum gradient, contrary to the predictions of mixing-length theory. Data from repeated aircraft passes normal to the line's axis at heights from 0.15 to 5.5 km are used to document the flux and determine its source. The flux is concentrated in roughly a 25 km wide “active zone” just behind the leading edge of the line, in kilometer-scale convective updrafts accelerated upward by buoyancy and toward the rear of the line by mesoscale pressure forces. The fall in mesoscale pressure from the leading edge to the rear of the active zone is mainly hydrostatic, resulting from relatively high virtual temperatures and the 60 degree tilt of the leading edge from the vertical, with the clouds at the surface well ahead of those aloft.

Evaluation of the terms in the momentum-flux generation equation confirms that the above process, reflected by the velocity-buoyancy correlation term, is responsible for generating momentum flux of the observed sign. The component of momentum flux parallel to the axis of the convective band is generated much like “down-gradient” momentum flux within the fair-weather subcloud layer.

Abstract

The vertical transport of horizontal momentum normal to a line of cumulonimbus observed during GATE on 14 September 1974 is against the vertical momentum gradient, contrary to the predictions of mixing-length theory. Data from repeated aircraft passes normal to the line's axis at heights from 0.15 to 5.5 km are used to document the flux and determine its source. The flux is concentrated in roughly a 25 km wide “active zone” just behind the leading edge of the line, in kilometer-scale convective updrafts accelerated upward by buoyancy and toward the rear of the line by mesoscale pressure forces. The fall in mesoscale pressure from the leading edge to the rear of the active zone is mainly hydrostatic, resulting from relatively high virtual temperatures and the 60 degree tilt of the leading edge from the vertical, with the clouds at the surface well ahead of those aloft.

Evaluation of the terms in the momentum-flux generation equation confirms that the above process, reflected by the velocity-buoyancy correlation term, is responsible for generating momentum flux of the observed sign. The component of momentum flux parallel to the axis of the convective band is generated much like “down-gradient” momentum flux within the fair-weather subcloud layer.

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