ESRL/PSD Seminar Series
Mechanisms for convective aggregation in idealized and realistic simulations
University of Reading (UK)
Idealized explicit convection simulations of the Met Office Unified Model exhibit spontaneous self-aggregation (cloud clustering) in radiative-convective equilibrium, as seen in other models in previous studies. This self-aggregation is linked to feedbacks between radiation, surface fluxes, and convection, and the organization is intimately related to the evolution of the column water vapor field. Analysis of the budget of the spatial variance of column-integrated frozen moist static energy (MSE), following Wing and Emanuel , reveals that the direct radiative feedback (including significant cloud longwave effects) is dominant in both the initial development of self-aggregation and the maintenance of an aggregated state. A low-level circulation at intermediate stages of aggregation does appear to transport MSE from drier to moister regions, but this circulation is mostly balanced by other advective effects of opposite sign and is forced by horizontal anomalies of convective heating (not radiation). Sensitivity studies with either fixed prescribed radiative cooling, fixed prescribed surface fluxes, or both do not show full self-aggregation from homogeneous initial conditions, though fixed surface fluxes do not disaggregate an initialized aggregated state. A sensitivity study in which rain evaporation is turned off shows more rapid self-aggregation, while a run with this change plus fixed radiative cooling still shows strong self-aggregation, supporting a “moisture memory” effect found in Muller and Bony . Interestingly, self-aggregation occurs even in simulations with sea surface temperatures (SSTs) of 295 K and 290 K, with direct radiative feedbacks dominating the budget of MSE variance, in contrast to results in some previous studies.
To investigate the relevance of this idealized model self-aggregation behavior to the real world, five 15-day simulated cases of real organized convection in the tropics are anlayzed, including multiple simulations of each case testing sensitivities of the convective organization and mean states to interactive radiation, interactive surface fluxes, and evaporation of rain. Analysis of the budget of the spatial MSE variance shows that control runs have significant positive contributions to organization from radiation and negative contributions from surface fluxes and convergence, similar to idealized runs after they become aggregated. Despite the same large-scale forcing via lateral boundary conditions for all experiments in each case, systematic differences in mean column water vapor (CWV), CWV distribution shape, and the length scale of CWV features are found between the different sensitivity runs, showing that there are at least some similarities in sensitivities to these feedbacks in both idealized and realistic simulations. The magnitudes and signs of these systematic differences are consistent with a rough equilibrium between equalization due to advection from the lateral boundaries and disaggregation due to mechanism denial that is comparable to aggregation rates seen in idealized runs. This points to a plausible similarity in the way that radiation feedbacks maintain aggregated convection in both idealized simulations and the real world.
Seminar Coordinator: Robbie Desen (Robbie.Desen@noaa.gov)
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