Convective Interaction with Boundary-Layer Dynamics in the Development of a Tropical Intraseasonal System

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii
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Abstract

Tropical boundary-layer flows interact with the free tropospheric circulation and underlying sea surface temperature, playing a critical role in coupling collective effects of cumulus heating with equatorial dynamics. In this paper a unified theoretical framework is developed in which convective interaction with large-scale circulation includes three mechanisms: convection–wave convergence (CWC) feedback, evaporation–wind (EW) feedback, and convection–frictional convergence (CFC) feedback. We examine the dynamic instability resulting from the convective interaction with circulation, in particular the role of CFC feedback mechanism.

CFC feedback results in an unstable mode that has distinctive characteristics from those occurring from CWC feedback or EW feedback in the absence of mean flow. The instability generated by CFC feedback is of low frequency with a typical growth rate on an order of 10−6 s−1. The unstable mode is a multiscale wave packet; a global-scale circulation couples with a large-scale (several thousand kilometers) convective complex. The complex is organized by boundary-layer convergence and may consist of a few synoptic-scale precipitation cells. The heating released in the complex in turn couples the moist Kelvin wave and the Rossby wave with the gravest meridional structure, forming a dispersive system. The energy propagates slower than the individual cells within the wave packet. A transient boundary layer is shown to favor planetary-scale instability due to the fractionally created phase shift between the maximum vertical motion and the heating associated with boundary-layer convergence.

The implications of the theory to the basic dynamics of tropical intraseasonal oscillation are discussed.

Abstract

Tropical boundary-layer flows interact with the free tropospheric circulation and underlying sea surface temperature, playing a critical role in coupling collective effects of cumulus heating with equatorial dynamics. In this paper a unified theoretical framework is developed in which convective interaction with large-scale circulation includes three mechanisms: convection–wave convergence (CWC) feedback, evaporation–wind (EW) feedback, and convection–frictional convergence (CFC) feedback. We examine the dynamic instability resulting from the convective interaction with circulation, in particular the role of CFC feedback mechanism.

CFC feedback results in an unstable mode that has distinctive characteristics from those occurring from CWC feedback or EW feedback in the absence of mean flow. The instability generated by CFC feedback is of low frequency with a typical growth rate on an order of 10−6 s−1. The unstable mode is a multiscale wave packet; a global-scale circulation couples with a large-scale (several thousand kilometers) convective complex. The complex is organized by boundary-layer convergence and may consist of a few synoptic-scale precipitation cells. The heating released in the complex in turn couples the moist Kelvin wave and the Rossby wave with the gravest meridional structure, forming a dispersive system. The energy propagates slower than the individual cells within the wave packet. A transient boundary layer is shown to favor planetary-scale instability due to the fractionally created phase shift between the maximum vertical motion and the heating associated with boundary-layer convergence.

The implications of the theory to the basic dynamics of tropical intraseasonal oscillation are discussed.

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