5.2 Gravity Waves Generated by Convection: A New Idealized Model Tool and Direct Validation with Satellite Observations

Tuesday, 16 June 2015: 8:30 AM
Meridian Ballroom (The Commons Hotel)
Claudia Christine Stephan, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO; and M. J. Alexander

In climate models, gravity waves remain too poorly resolved to be directly modelled. Instead, simplified parameterizations are used to include gravity wave effects on model winds. A few climate models link some of the parameterized waves to convective sources, providing a mechanism for feedback between changes in convection and gravity wave-driven changes in circulation in the tropics and above high-latitude storms. These convective wave parameterizations are based on limited case studies with cloud-resolving models, but they are poorly constrained by observational validation, and tuning parameters have large uncertainties. We present a new model tool that permits direct validation by satellite observations of gravity waves above storms. The model gives a process-level understanding of the storm properties that control characteristics of small-scale waves observed aloft. Our new work distills results from complex, full-physics cloud-resolving model studies to essential variables for gravity wave generation. We use the Weather Research Forecast (WRF) model to study relationships between precipitation, latent heating/cooling and other cloud properties to the spectrum of gravity wave momentum flux above midlatitude storm systems. Results show the gravity wave spectrum is surprisingly insensitive to the representation of microphysics in WRF. We further use the full-physics cloud-resolving model as a tool to directly link observed precipitation variability to gravity wave generation. We show that waves in an idealized model forced with radar-observed precipitation can quantitatively reproduce instantaneous satellite-observed features of the gravity wave field above storms, which is a powerful validation of our understanding of how waves are generated by convection. The figure shows 10-min radar precipitation rates (contours) and idealized model vertical velocities (shading) at the tropopause ranging +/-4 m/s across a 1200km x 1200km area surrounding a mesoscale convective complex. The simplicity of the model permits deep/large-area domains for studies of wave-mean flow interactions. This unique validated model tool permits quantitative studies of gravity wave driving of regional circulation and provides a new method for future development of realistic convective gravity wave parameterizations.

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