A Numerical Study of Nonlinear Nonhydrostatic Conditional Symmetric Instability in a Convectively Unstable Atmosphere

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
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Abstract

Nonlinear nonhydrostatic conditional symmetric instability (CSI) is studied as an initial value problem using a two-dimensional (y, z)nonlinear, nonhydrostatic numerical mesoscale/cloud model. The initial atmosphere for the rotating, baroclinic (BCF) simulation contains large convective available potential energy (CAPE). Analytical theory, various model output diagnostics, and a companion nonrotating barotropic (BTNF) simulation are used to interpret the results from the BCF simulation. A single warm moist thermal initiates convection for the two 8-h simulations.

The BCF simulation exhibited a very intricate life cycle. Following the initial convection, a series of discrete convective cells developed within a growing mesoscale circulation. Between hours 4 and 8, the circulation grew upscale into a structure resembling that of a squall-line mesoscale convective system (MCS). The mesoscale updrafts were nearly vertical and the circulation was strongest on the baroclinically cool side of the initial convection, as predicted by a two-dimensional Lagrangian parcel model of CSI with CAPE. The cool-side mesoscale circulation grew nearly exponentially over the last 5 h as it slowly propagated toward the warm air. Significant vertical transport of zonal momentum occurred in the (multicellular) convection that developed, resulting in local subgeostrophic zonal wind anomalies aloft. Over time, geostrophic adjustment acted to balance these anomalies. The system became warm core, with mesohigh pressure aloft and mesolow pressure at the surface. A positive zonal wind anomaly also formed downstream from the mesohigh.

Analysis of the BCF simulation showed that convective momentum transport played a key role in the evolution of the simulated MCS, in that it fostered the development of the nonlinear CSI on mesoscale time scales. The vertical momentum transport in the initial deep convection generated a subgeostrophic zonal momentum anomaly aloft; the resulting imbalance in pressure gradient and Coriolis forces accelerated the meridional outflow toward the baroclinically cool side, transporting zonal momentum horizontally. The vertical (horizontal) momentum transport occurred on a convective (inertial) time scale. Taken together, the sloping convective updraft/cool side outflow represents the release of the CSI in the convectively unstable atmosphere. Further diagnostics showed that mass transports in the horizontal outflow branch ventilated the upper levels of the system, with enhanced mesoscale lifting in the core and on the leading edge of the MCS, which assisted in convective redevelopments on mesoscale time scales. Geostrophic adjustment acted to balance the convectively generated zonal momentum anomalies, thereby limiting the strength of the meridional outflow predicted by CSI theory. Circulation tendency diagnostics showed that the mesoscale circulation developed in response to thermal wind imbalances generated by the deep convection.

Comparison of the BCF and BTNF simulations showed that baroclinicity enhanced mesoscale circulation growth. The BTNF circulation was more transient on mesoscale time and space scales. Overall, the BCF system produced more rainfall than the BTNF.

Based on the present and past work in CSI theory, a new definition for the term “slantwise convection” is proposed.

Abstract

Nonlinear nonhydrostatic conditional symmetric instability (CSI) is studied as an initial value problem using a two-dimensional (y, z)nonlinear, nonhydrostatic numerical mesoscale/cloud model. The initial atmosphere for the rotating, baroclinic (BCF) simulation contains large convective available potential energy (CAPE). Analytical theory, various model output diagnostics, and a companion nonrotating barotropic (BTNF) simulation are used to interpret the results from the BCF simulation. A single warm moist thermal initiates convection for the two 8-h simulations.

The BCF simulation exhibited a very intricate life cycle. Following the initial convection, a series of discrete convective cells developed within a growing mesoscale circulation. Between hours 4 and 8, the circulation grew upscale into a structure resembling that of a squall-line mesoscale convective system (MCS). The mesoscale updrafts were nearly vertical and the circulation was strongest on the baroclinically cool side of the initial convection, as predicted by a two-dimensional Lagrangian parcel model of CSI with CAPE. The cool-side mesoscale circulation grew nearly exponentially over the last 5 h as it slowly propagated toward the warm air. Significant vertical transport of zonal momentum occurred in the (multicellular) convection that developed, resulting in local subgeostrophic zonal wind anomalies aloft. Over time, geostrophic adjustment acted to balance these anomalies. The system became warm core, with mesohigh pressure aloft and mesolow pressure at the surface. A positive zonal wind anomaly also formed downstream from the mesohigh.

Analysis of the BCF simulation showed that convective momentum transport played a key role in the evolution of the simulated MCS, in that it fostered the development of the nonlinear CSI on mesoscale time scales. The vertical momentum transport in the initial deep convection generated a subgeostrophic zonal momentum anomaly aloft; the resulting imbalance in pressure gradient and Coriolis forces accelerated the meridional outflow toward the baroclinically cool side, transporting zonal momentum horizontally. The vertical (horizontal) momentum transport occurred on a convective (inertial) time scale. Taken together, the sloping convective updraft/cool side outflow represents the release of the CSI in the convectively unstable atmosphere. Further diagnostics showed that mass transports in the horizontal outflow branch ventilated the upper levels of the system, with enhanced mesoscale lifting in the core and on the leading edge of the MCS, which assisted in convective redevelopments on mesoscale time scales. Geostrophic adjustment acted to balance the convectively generated zonal momentum anomalies, thereby limiting the strength of the meridional outflow predicted by CSI theory. Circulation tendency diagnostics showed that the mesoscale circulation developed in response to thermal wind imbalances generated by the deep convection.

Comparison of the BCF and BTNF simulations showed that baroclinicity enhanced mesoscale circulation growth. The BTNF circulation was more transient on mesoscale time and space scales. Overall, the BCF system produced more rainfall than the BTNF.

Based on the present and past work in CSI theory, a new definition for the term “slantwise convection” is proposed.

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