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Abstract Observations have shown that tropical convection is influenced by fluctuations in temperature and moisture in the lower free troposphere (LFT; 600–850 hPa), as well as moist enthalpy (ME) fluctuations beneath the 850 hPa level, referred to as the deep boundary layer (DBL; 850–1000 hPa). A framework is developed that consolidates these three quantities within the context of the buoyancy of an entraining plume. A “plume buoyancy equation” is derived based on a relaxed version of the weak temperature gradient (WTG) approximation. Analysis of this equation using quantities derived from the Dynamics of the Madden–Julian Oscillation (DYNAMO) sounding array data reveals that processes occurring within the DBL and the LFT contribute nearly equally to the evolution of plume buoyancy, indicating that processes that occur in both layers are critical to the evolution of tropical convection. Adiabatic motions play an important role in the evolution of buoyancy both at the daily and longer time scales and are comparable in magnitude to horizontal moisture advection and vertical moist static energy advection by convection. The plume buoyancy equation may explain convective coupling at short time scales in both temperature and moisture fluctuations and can be used to complement the commonly used moist staticmore »
Near-Surface Frontogenesis and Atmospheric Instability along the U.S. East Coast during the Extratropical Transition of Hurricane Matthew (2016)
Hurricane Matthew locally generated more than 400 mm of rainfall on 8–9 October 2016 over the eastern Carolinas and Virginia as it transitioned into an extratropical cyclone. The heaviest precipitation occurred along a swath situated up to 100–200 km inland from the coast and collocated with enhanced low-tropospheric frontogenesis. Analyses from version 3 of the Rapid Refresh (RAPv3) model indicate that rapid frontogenesis occurred over eastern North and South Carolina and Virginia on 8 October, largely over a 12-h time period between 1200 UTC 8 October and 0000 UTC 9 October. The heaviest rainfall in Matthew occurred when and where spiral rainbands intersected the near-surface front, which promoted the lift of conditionally unstable, moist air. Parallel to the spiral rainbands, conditionally unstable low-tropospheric warm, moist oceanic air was advected inland, and the instability was apparently released as the warm air mass rose over the front. Precipitation in the spiral rainbands intensified on 9 October as the temperature gradient along the near-surface front rapidly increased. Unlike in Hurricane Floyd over the mid-Atlantic states, rainfall totals within the spiral rainbands of Matthew as they approached the near-surface front evidently were not enhanced by release of conditional symmetric instability. However, conditional symmetric instabilitymore »
Interactions between Moisture and Tropical Convection. Part I: The Coevolution of Moisture and Convection
Realistically representing the multiscale interactions between moisture and tropical convection remains an ongoing challenge for weather prediction and climate models. In this study, we revisit the relationship between precipitation and column saturation fraction (CSF) by investigating their tendencies in CSF–precipitation space using satellite and radar observations, as well as reanalysis. A well-known, roughly exponential increase in precipitation occurs as CSF increases above a “critical point,” which acts as an attractor in CSF–precipitation space. Each movement away from and subsequent return toward the attractor results in a small net change of the coupled system, causing it to evolve in a cyclical fashion around the attractor. This cyclical evolution is characterized by shallow and convective precipitation progressively moistening the environment and strengthening convection, stratiform precipitation progressively weakening convection, and drying in the nonprecipitating and lightly precipitation regime. This behavior is evident across a range of spatiotemporal scales, suggesting that shortcomings in model representation of the joint evolution of convection and large-scale moisture will negatively impact a broad range of spatiotemporal scales. Novel process-level diagnostics indicate that several models, all implementing versions of the Zhang–McFarlane deep convective parameterization, exhibit unrealistic coupling between column moisture and convection.