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Title: Tropical Thermodynamic–Convection Coupling in Observations and Reanalyses

This study examines thermodynamic–convection coupling in observations and reanalyses, and attempts to establish process-level benchmarks needed to guide model development. Thermodynamic profiles obtained from the NOAA Integrated Global Radiosonde Archive, COSMIC-1 GPS radio occultations, and several reanalyses are examined alongside Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission precipitation estimates. Cyclical increases and decreases in a bulk measure of lower-tropospheric convective instability are shown to be coupled to the cyclical amplification and decay of convection. This cyclical flow emerges from conditional-mean analysis in a thermodynamic space composed of two components: a measure of “undiluted” instability, which neglects lower-free-tropospheric (LFT) entrainment, and a measure of the reduction of instability by LFT entrainment. The observational and reanalysis products examined share the following qualitatively robust characterization of these convective cycles: increases in undiluted instability tend to occur when the LFT is less saturated, are followed by increases in LFT saturation and precipitation rate, which are then followed by decreases in undiluted instability. Shallow, convective, and stratiform precipitation are coupled to these cycles in a manner consistent with meteorological expectations. In situ and satellite observations differ systematically from reanalyses in their depictions of lower-tropospheric temperature and moisture variations throughout these convective cycles. When using reanalysis thermodynamic fields, these systematic differences cause variations in lower-free-tropospheric saturation deficit to appear less influential in determining the strength of convection than is suggested by observations. Disagreements among reanalyses, as well as between reanalyses and observations, pose significant challenges to process-level assessments of thermodynamic–convection coupling.

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Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
American Meteorological Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1781-1803
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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