Results are shown that illustrate the utility of this method and examine the limits for which the linear approximation is valid. For tropical conditions in which convection is suppressed, all normal modes of the system are stable or have very small growth rates (time scales of several days). However, rapid perturbation growth can still occur through non-modal interaction. For conditions in which convection is promoted, large growth rates are found for normal modes in addition to the optimal perturbation. In that case, growth is primarily promoted by deep convection and vertical diffusion, while it is damped by large-scale stable condensation. The comparison of results from two different basic states demonstrate the nonlinearity of the single column model. Nevertheless, for even the convectively active basic state, linear behavior is apparent for several hours, comparable to the lifetime of tropical convection.