Scale-Dependence of the Response of Tropopause Height to Deep Cumulus Convection

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Evan Fishbein, JPL, Pasadena, CA, United States and Sun Wong, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States
Deep cumulus convection can influence the height of the tropopause either through plumes which penetration into the tropical tropopause layer (TTL) or by forcing broad-scale vertical motion. This study uses the unique capabilities of satellite-based cross-track sounders to provide three-dimensional images of temperature in the TTL. These are used to derive thermal tropopause height and to study the scale-dependence of tropopause height variability and its relation to distance and intensity of deep convection.

The data used in this study are 10 years of tropical Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) swath (level 2) temperature profile data. Localized spatial power spectra are derived from swaths of tropopause height, which are ordered relative to the timing of deep convective clouds. The relative contributions of small-scale and large-scale power are use to characterize the influence of the scale of the vertical motion in the TTL. The highest spatial scales sampled by the AIRS temperature field are mesoscale systems of deep cumulus convection approximately 200 to 400 km across because the horizontal spatial resolution of the AIRS temperature profile product is approximately 50 km. AIRS temperature profiles have state-dependent errors correlated with cloud amount, but are more useful than temperature profiles from microwave sounders because of their higher vertical resolution. TTL temperature has less sampling error then mid and lower troposphere temperature, and the time binning is used to characterize and reduce these errors.

The intensity of cumulus convection is inferred from the derived cloud properties, specifically cloud-top height, cloud-ice effective diameter and their power. The height difference between tropopause and cloud-top is used to characterize the likelihood that vertical motions extend to the tropopause, while the cloud-ice effective diameter provides a measure of the intensity of the convective vertical velocity and its ability to lift larger ice particles. This study investigates the seasonal and temporal variability of the tropopause height power spectra, the contributions of measurement error and the relation between tropopause height and cloud properties.