Scale Selection in Locally Forced Convective Fields and the Initiation of Deep Cumulus

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  • 1 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

Deep cumulus dynamics has often been treated as an initial value problem where the long time effect of surface energy fluxes are neglected. Initiation is often assumed to follow from a strong localized deformation of the flow field, which is elsewhere quiescent. In nature, however, the atmosphere is rarely found in an undisturbed condition just prior to the inception of deep growth. One likely cause of widespread motions is the natural modal response of the environment to surface energy fluxes which results in a field of disturbances. Evidence is presented in this paper for the possible existence of a class of solutions when deep convection is allowed to evolve in the context of a thermally forced field of shallow convection. This class of solutions is neglected when one visualizes the growth of severe local storms in term of buoyant bubbles in an otherwise tranquil atmosphere. Considering deep cumulus initiation as a field problem severely limits the concept of an isolated cloud. Individual clouds may owe much of their structure to the existence of, and interaction with, the field of thermally forced deep normal modes. The importance of the local forcing terms is demonstrated here through a numerical simulation of the evolution of deep and severe convection out of a locally forced shallow cloud field in the absence of large scale forcing.

When convection is initiated over the entire domain locally through thermal forcing at the ground, the modal solution first observed corresponds to the Rayleigh solution which consist of modes confined to the boundary-layer. However, solutions in the deep linear equations show that a second modal solution also exists. The dominance of this solution, which consists of deep modes of longer horizontal wavelength, is shown here to lead to deep convection.

While the contribution of local forcing terms to the overall energy budget may be negligible at the severe convective stage, the mechanism of initiation appears to influence the pattern of evolution even into the mature stage. At the stage of shallow cumulus, the well-known phenomenon of upshear cumulus development is observed. As clouds grow deeper, an interesting phenomenon of phase-decoupled modal solutions is observed:. the growth of clouds appears to decouple the boundary-layer horizontal motions in phase from the stable layer motions, an effect that cyclically enhances and suppresses cloud growth. A characteristic time may be computed, and average cloud longevity inferred. Finally; the interaction of a moving storm system in its severe stage with the boundary-layer modes appears to provide one explanation for the spatial and temporal distribution of new convective cells in a multicellular storm system.

Abstract

Deep cumulus dynamics has often been treated as an initial value problem where the long time effect of surface energy fluxes are neglected. Initiation is often assumed to follow from a strong localized deformation of the flow field, which is elsewhere quiescent. In nature, however, the atmosphere is rarely found in an undisturbed condition just prior to the inception of deep growth. One likely cause of widespread motions is the natural modal response of the environment to surface energy fluxes which results in a field of disturbances. Evidence is presented in this paper for the possible existence of a class of solutions when deep convection is allowed to evolve in the context of a thermally forced field of shallow convection. This class of solutions is neglected when one visualizes the growth of severe local storms in term of buoyant bubbles in an otherwise tranquil atmosphere. Considering deep cumulus initiation as a field problem severely limits the concept of an isolated cloud. Individual clouds may owe much of their structure to the existence of, and interaction with, the field of thermally forced deep normal modes. The importance of the local forcing terms is demonstrated here through a numerical simulation of the evolution of deep and severe convection out of a locally forced shallow cloud field in the absence of large scale forcing.

When convection is initiated over the entire domain locally through thermal forcing at the ground, the modal solution first observed corresponds to the Rayleigh solution which consist of modes confined to the boundary-layer. However, solutions in the deep linear equations show that a second modal solution also exists. The dominance of this solution, which consists of deep modes of longer horizontal wavelength, is shown here to lead to deep convection.

While the contribution of local forcing terms to the overall energy budget may be negligible at the severe convective stage, the mechanism of initiation appears to influence the pattern of evolution even into the mature stage. At the stage of shallow cumulus, the well-known phenomenon of upshear cumulus development is observed. As clouds grow deeper, an interesting phenomenon of phase-decoupled modal solutions is observed:. the growth of clouds appears to decouple the boundary-layer horizontal motions in phase from the stable layer motions, an effect that cyclically enhances and suppresses cloud growth. A characteristic time may be computed, and average cloud longevity inferred. Finally; the interaction of a moving storm system in its severe stage with the boundary-layer modes appears to provide one explanation for the spatial and temporal distribution of new convective cells in a multicellular storm system.

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