Cloud Distributions in a Bay of Bengal Monsoon Depression

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  • 1 University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA R2903
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Abstract

A monsoon depression over the Bay of Bengal on 7 July 1979 has been studied using a variety of observations, in particular, cloud photographs from aircraft. Ascent in the lower troposphere was concentrated in mesoscale features of cumulus clouds covering ∼1% of the inner area (3 × 105 km2) of the depression. Across these mesoscale features discontinuities in thermal fields were found along with abrupt wind shifts.

Much of the volume of the depression featured thin fragmentary layers of stratus, implying an absence of strong vertical motion. Observed by photography, individual rising cumulus towers were of width up to a few kilometers, increasing with height; rise rates of towers reached 9 m s−1. Measured with aircraft instruments, mean updrafts in cumulus clouds were ∼2.5 m s−1. In cumulus populations scattered throughout the storm, number densities of cumulus ranged from ∼1 km−2 for fractus to ∼1 per 1500 km2 for Congestus. Congestus penetrating the 500 (300) hPa level were ∼1 per 3200 (13 000) km2. Fractional area coverage by cumulus updrafts was ∼0.5% in humilis, less in other categories. Coverage by cumulus updrafts was roughly 20 times less than coverage by inert remnants of cumulus. Cloudy ascending motion in populations of cumulus was generally on the order of hundredths of Pascals per second. It appeared to be mostly compensated by local subsidence. Great number densities of humilis were found moistening the central area following subsidence and drying.

Total cloud cover was dominated by mid-level thin fragmentary status layers and cumulus debris. There was extensive anvil cloud based at ∼400 hPa, apparently arising from cumulus.

Detailed observations were made of a cloud line growing out of the southwesterly flow south of the center of the depression. The line was followed for 3 h on GOES-1 visible imagery. It propagated faster than the low-level winds. Aircraft altimetry showed an abrupt height drop from 6097 to 6090 m at 483 hPa, over a distance of 50 km from southeast to northwest through the line. Southwesterly momentum was lifted from 900 to 600 hPa and from southeast to northwest through the line. Other colocated singularities in convection and wind fields were found.

Ascent in the lower troposphere over the depression as a whole (1066 km2) was assessed from aircraft and dropwindsonde data to be approximately −0.3 Pa s−1.

Abstract

A monsoon depression over the Bay of Bengal on 7 July 1979 has been studied using a variety of observations, in particular, cloud photographs from aircraft. Ascent in the lower troposphere was concentrated in mesoscale features of cumulus clouds covering ∼1% of the inner area (3 × 105 km2) of the depression. Across these mesoscale features discontinuities in thermal fields were found along with abrupt wind shifts.

Much of the volume of the depression featured thin fragmentary layers of stratus, implying an absence of strong vertical motion. Observed by photography, individual rising cumulus towers were of width up to a few kilometers, increasing with height; rise rates of towers reached 9 m s−1. Measured with aircraft instruments, mean updrafts in cumulus clouds were ∼2.5 m s−1. In cumulus populations scattered throughout the storm, number densities of cumulus ranged from ∼1 km−2 for fractus to ∼1 per 1500 km2 for Congestus. Congestus penetrating the 500 (300) hPa level were ∼1 per 3200 (13 000) km2. Fractional area coverage by cumulus updrafts was ∼0.5% in humilis, less in other categories. Coverage by cumulus updrafts was roughly 20 times less than coverage by inert remnants of cumulus. Cloudy ascending motion in populations of cumulus was generally on the order of hundredths of Pascals per second. It appeared to be mostly compensated by local subsidence. Great number densities of humilis were found moistening the central area following subsidence and drying.

Total cloud cover was dominated by mid-level thin fragmentary status layers and cumulus debris. There was extensive anvil cloud based at ∼400 hPa, apparently arising from cumulus.

Detailed observations were made of a cloud line growing out of the southwesterly flow south of the center of the depression. The line was followed for 3 h on GOES-1 visible imagery. It propagated faster than the low-level winds. Aircraft altimetry showed an abrupt height drop from 6097 to 6090 m at 483 hPa, over a distance of 50 km from southeast to northwest through the line. Southwesterly momentum was lifted from 900 to 600 hPa and from southeast to northwest through the line. Other colocated singularities in convection and wind fields were found.

Ascent in the lower troposphere over the depression as a whole (1066 km2) was assessed from aircraft and dropwindsonde data to be approximately −0.3 Pa s−1.

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