Factors Responsible for Precipitation Efficiencies in Midlatitude and Tropical Squall Simulations

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  • 1 Mesoscale Atmospheric Processes Branch, Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland and Science Systems and Applications Inc., Lanham, Maryland
  • | 2 NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • | 3 Mesoscale Atmospheric Processes Branch, Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
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Abstract

Different definitions of storm precipitation efficiency were investigated from numerical simulators of convective systems in widely varying ambient conditions using a two-dimensional cloud model with sophisticated ice microphysics. The model results indicate that the vertical orientation of the updrafts, which is controlled by the vertical wind shear, and the ambient moisture content are important in determining storm efficiency.

In terms of rainfall divided by condensation, simulated efficiencies ranged from 20%–35% for convective systems that tilted strongly against the low-level shear (upshear), to 40%–50% for erect storms. Changes in environmental moisture produced smaller variations in efficiency that were less than 10%. Upright convection allows for effective collection of cloud condensate by precipitation, whereas lower efficiencies in upshear storms are due to greater evaporation of cloud at middle levels and evaporation of rain at lower levels. Development of trailing stratiform precipitation is promoted by the rearward transport of moisture and condensate in upshear-tilted updrafts with evaporation moistening the ambient air as it passes through the convection. The fraction of rainfall from stratiform processes increases with upshear tilt of the convection and is inefficient. Rainfall from convection tilting downshear is efficient in terms of the total condensation, but is inefficient in terms of the flux of vapor into the storm because the gust fronts are too weak to completely block the low-level inflow.

Different closure assumptions in cumulus parameterization schemes that use functional relationships for precipitation efficiency were evaluated. None of them showed consistent agreement with the efficiency parameters diagnosed from the simulations.

Detailed diagnostics over various temporal and spatial scales indicate that storm efficiency determined by total condensation varied much less than that obtained from moisture convergence. The former definition should be more useful in cumulus parameterizations. Spatial variations in moisture convergence were dominated by changes in net condensation within the area of the storm, while variability at larger scales resulted from the advection of dry air in downdraft wakes.

Abstract

Different definitions of storm precipitation efficiency were investigated from numerical simulators of convective systems in widely varying ambient conditions using a two-dimensional cloud model with sophisticated ice microphysics. The model results indicate that the vertical orientation of the updrafts, which is controlled by the vertical wind shear, and the ambient moisture content are important in determining storm efficiency.

In terms of rainfall divided by condensation, simulated efficiencies ranged from 20%–35% for convective systems that tilted strongly against the low-level shear (upshear), to 40%–50% for erect storms. Changes in environmental moisture produced smaller variations in efficiency that were less than 10%. Upright convection allows for effective collection of cloud condensate by precipitation, whereas lower efficiencies in upshear storms are due to greater evaporation of cloud at middle levels and evaporation of rain at lower levels. Development of trailing stratiform precipitation is promoted by the rearward transport of moisture and condensate in upshear-tilted updrafts with evaporation moistening the ambient air as it passes through the convection. The fraction of rainfall from stratiform processes increases with upshear tilt of the convection and is inefficient. Rainfall from convection tilting downshear is efficient in terms of the total condensation, but is inefficient in terms of the flux of vapor into the storm because the gust fronts are too weak to completely block the low-level inflow.

Different closure assumptions in cumulus parameterization schemes that use functional relationships for precipitation efficiency were evaluated. None of them showed consistent agreement with the efficiency parameters diagnosed from the simulations.

Detailed diagnostics over various temporal and spatial scales indicate that storm efficiency determined by total condensation varied much less than that obtained from moisture convergence. The former definition should be more useful in cumulus parameterizations. Spatial variations in moisture convergence were dominated by changes in net condensation within the area of the storm, while variability at larger scales resulted from the advection of dry air in downdraft wakes.

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