Mechanisms for convective aggregation in idealized and realistic simulations

Monday, 18 April 2016: 8:45 AM
Ponce de Leon C (The Condado Hilton Plaza)
Christopher E. Holloway, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom; and S. J. Woolnough

Idealized explicit convection simulations of the Met Office Unified Model exhibit spontaneous self-aggregation 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 [2014], 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 [2015]. 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. Some comparisons are made to realistic simulations of aggregated convection using the same model: for instance, longwave feedbacks in moist cloudy regions are important in these simulations as well.
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