25th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology


Diurnal cycle of convection in the East Pacific ITCZ during EPIC-2001

Dennis J. Boccippio, NASA/MSFC, Marshall Space Flight Center, AL; and W. A. Petersen, R. Cifelli, and S. A. Rutledge

During the last three weeks of September 2001, the EPIC-2001 intensive field campaign focused on studies of deep convection in the ITCZ over the Mexican warm pool region (10N, 95W) of the East Pacific. This study focuses on the pronounced observed diurnal cycle of environmental and convective parameters within the experiment domain.

Data from three primary sources are examined: the R/V Ronald H. Brown C-band weather radar, 4-hourly soundings from the Brown and the Global Atmospherics, Inc. National Lightning Detection Network (long range product). Satellite data from TRMM, GOES and OV-1 are also used.

The domain boundary layer shows a robust daily evolution of moist enthalpy (as reflect by equivalent potential temperature, theta-e, or wet bulb potential temperature, theta-w), with contributions from changes in both dry and moist entropy. Peak theta-w is found after local nightfall; the average diurnal range of theta-w is approximately 1 deg C.

A composite diurnal cycle of convective properties was derived from the C-band volume scans, sampled continuously through the experiment at 10 minute updates. Products derived from the volumetric data include a surface PPI, 15 and 30 dBZ echo top height, vertically integrated liquid, and 6 km (mixed phase region) reflectivity CAPPIs. For almost all products, the parameter means showed virtually no diurnal cycle. However, for the upper-level products, the parameter spectra showed a clear peak in the occurrence of deep/vigorous convection (the "tail end of the distribution") between 7-9 UTC (1-3 AM local), while overall frequency of occurrence peaked later, from 12-15 UTC (6-9 AM local). This represens a daily "outbreak" of isolated deep cells a couple of hours after sunset and subsequent growth, organization and decay through the nighttime hours. The coherence of the diurnal cycle of the convective spectrum is impressive given the wide variety of convective organization observed during the experiment, and given the modulation by passage of 3-5 day easterly waves.

While earlier satellite OLR composites suggested an offshore coastal migration of storms into the domain at night, examination of the 150 km and 300 km range radar products showed little evidence of such organization; almost all convection developed "in-place" within the analysis domain.

Consistent with the diurnal thermodynamic and microphysical evolution, a clear cycle in cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning occurrence was observed. The local CG diurnal cycle is significantly stronger than the satellite-derived tropical ocean diurnal cycle of total (IC+CG) lightning. Flash rates of 3-4 fl/min were often visually observed after nightfall; these are fairly 'healthy' flash rates for tropical ocean storms, and the domain was qualitatively noted to be unusually lightning-productive by the R/V Brown crew (also consistent with satellite-based climatologies).

extended abstract  Extended Abstract (568K)

Session 13B, Climate Processes in the Americas and Eastern Pacific I (Parallel with Sessions 13A, 13C, and 13D)
Thursday, 2 May 2002, 11:00 AM-12:30 PM

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