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Journal Article

Precipitation onset as the temporal reference in convective self-organization


Moseley,  Christopher
Climate Modelling, The Atmosphere in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

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Haerter, J., Berg, P., & Moseley, C. (2017). Precipitation onset as the temporal reference in convective self-organization. Geophysical Research Letters, 44, 6450 -6459. doi:10.1002/2017GL073342.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002D-9046-0
In a dry convective boundary layer, convective patterns of typical scales spontaneously develop, qualitatively similar to those in a fluid which is placed between two horizontal plates and sufficiently heated from below. As soon as precipitating cumulus clouds form, this pattern is disturbed and a transition to a different state occurs. Here we use idealized large-eddy simulations to explore how the horizontal scale of convection is modified during this transition in the course of a diurnal cycle. Before onset of precipitation, cells with relatively constant diameter self-organize, with diameters roughly on the scale of the atmospheric boundary layer height. We find that the onset of precipitation then signals an approximately linear increase in horizontal scale with time. For our transient simulations, this scale increase progresses at a speed which is relatively insensitive to modifications in mean surface temperature, modifications in the rate at which surface temperature changes, or the initial lapse rate. When exploring the strength of the spatial correlations, we find that precipitation onset causes a sudden disruption of order and a subsequent decline of organization-until precipitation eventually ceases. We discuss possible implications for the development of extreme precipitation events. ©2017. American Geophysical Union.