Properties of African Squall Lines Inferred from Time-Lapse Satellite Imagery

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  • 1 Space Science and Engineering Center/Department of Meteorology, The University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706
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Abstract

Analysis of 48 h of time-lapse satellite imagery of a family of squall lines in Africa links the phenomena with a characteristic cloud cluster and with a wind field perturbation which is enhanced in passing through an African easterly wave trough. A thin “are line” of low-level developing cumulus, a salient feature of the squall lines on the imagery, is shown to occur at the front boundary of the mesoscale/convective scale subsidence. Analysis of the wind field indicates that a squall line is associated with a vorticity center in the mid-level easterly flow which accompanies the mesoscale subsidence which, in turn, contributes to further forced ascent of subcloud air along the front of the squall line into convective towers which merge into an extensive anvil. The squall lines evolved through a life cycle of 6 to 12 h while the larger cloud cluster and wind perturbation lasted over 48 h. The magnitude of the vertical mass exchange suggests that squall-line families contribute significantly to the tropical energy balance.

Abstract

Analysis of 48 h of time-lapse satellite imagery of a family of squall lines in Africa links the phenomena with a characteristic cloud cluster and with a wind field perturbation which is enhanced in passing through an African easterly wave trough. A thin “are line” of low-level developing cumulus, a salient feature of the squall lines on the imagery, is shown to occur at the front boundary of the mesoscale/convective scale subsidence. Analysis of the wind field indicates that a squall line is associated with a vorticity center in the mid-level easterly flow which accompanies the mesoscale subsidence which, in turn, contributes to further forced ascent of subcloud air along the front of the squall line into convective towers which merge into an extensive anvil. The squall lines evolved through a life cycle of 6 to 12 h while the larger cloud cluster and wind perturbation lasted over 48 h. The magnitude of the vertical mass exchange suggests that squall-line families contribute significantly to the tropical energy balance.

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