Vertical Velocity in Oceanic Convection off Tropical Australia

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
  • | 2 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

Time series of 1-Hz vertical velocity data collected during aircraft penetrations of oceanic cumulonimbus clouds over the western Pacific warm pool as part of the Equatorial Mesoscale Experiment (EMEX) are analyzed for updraft and downdraft events called cores. An updraft core is defined as occurring whenever the vertical velocity exceeds 1 m s−1 for at least 500 m. A downdraft core is defined analogously. Over 19 000 km of straight and level flight legs are used in the analysis. Five hundred eleven updraft cores and 253 downdraft cores are included in the dataset.

Core properties are summarized as distributions of average and maximum vertical velocity, diameter, and mass flux in four altitude intervals between 0.2 and 5.8 km. Distributions are approximately lognormal at all levels. Examination of the variation of the statistics with height suggests a maximum in vertical velocity between 2 and 3 km; slightly lower or equal vertical velocity is indicated at 5 km. Near the freezing level, virtual temperature deviations are found to be slightly positive for both updraft and downdraft cores. The excess in updraft cores is much smaller than that predicted by parcel theory.

Comparisons with other studies that use the same analysis technique reveal that EMEX cores have approximately the same strength as cores of other oceanic areas, despite warmer sea surface temperatures. Diameter and mass flux are greater than those in GATE but smaller than those in hurricane rainbands. Oceanic cores are much weaker and appear to be slightly smaller than those observed over land during the Thunderstorm Project.

The markedly weaker oceanic vertical velocities below 5.8 km (compared to the continental cores) cannot be attributed to smaller total convective available potential energy or to very high water loading. Rather, the authors suggest that water loading, although less than adiabatic, is more effective in reducing buoyancy of oceanic cores because of the smaller potential buoyancy below 5.8 km. Entrainment appears to be more effective in reducing buoyancy to well below adiabatic values in oceanic cores, a result consistent with the smaller oceanic core diameters in the lower cloud layer. It is speculated further that core diameters are related to boundary layer depth, which is clearly smaller over the oceans.

Abstract

Time series of 1-Hz vertical velocity data collected during aircraft penetrations of oceanic cumulonimbus clouds over the western Pacific warm pool as part of the Equatorial Mesoscale Experiment (EMEX) are analyzed for updraft and downdraft events called cores. An updraft core is defined as occurring whenever the vertical velocity exceeds 1 m s−1 for at least 500 m. A downdraft core is defined analogously. Over 19 000 km of straight and level flight legs are used in the analysis. Five hundred eleven updraft cores and 253 downdraft cores are included in the dataset.

Core properties are summarized as distributions of average and maximum vertical velocity, diameter, and mass flux in four altitude intervals between 0.2 and 5.8 km. Distributions are approximately lognormal at all levels. Examination of the variation of the statistics with height suggests a maximum in vertical velocity between 2 and 3 km; slightly lower or equal vertical velocity is indicated at 5 km. Near the freezing level, virtual temperature deviations are found to be slightly positive for both updraft and downdraft cores. The excess in updraft cores is much smaller than that predicted by parcel theory.

Comparisons with other studies that use the same analysis technique reveal that EMEX cores have approximately the same strength as cores of other oceanic areas, despite warmer sea surface temperatures. Diameter and mass flux are greater than those in GATE but smaller than those in hurricane rainbands. Oceanic cores are much weaker and appear to be slightly smaller than those observed over land during the Thunderstorm Project.

The markedly weaker oceanic vertical velocities below 5.8 km (compared to the continental cores) cannot be attributed to smaller total convective available potential energy or to very high water loading. Rather, the authors suggest that water loading, although less than adiabatic, is more effective in reducing buoyancy of oceanic cores because of the smaller potential buoyancy below 5.8 km. Entrainment appears to be more effective in reducing buoyancy to well below adiabatic values in oceanic cores, a result consistent with the smaller oceanic core diameters in the lower cloud layer. It is speculated further that core diameters are related to boundary layer depth, which is clearly smaller over the oceans.

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