Characteristics of Precipitation Event Life Cycles in the Tropical Western Pacific (TWP)

Friday, 19 December 2014
Yanping Li, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada, Gregory Elsaesser, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, United States, Richard E. Carbone, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, United States and Christian D Kummerow, Colorado State Univ, Fort Collins, CO, United States
Propagating convection contributes substantially to tropical rainfall. There is a two-way interaction between propagating convection and the environment: the large scale circulation controls the characteristics of propagating convection, while any changes in the spectrum of the propagating precipitation events imply an upscale feedback to the large scale disturbances. These important interactions warrant continued investigation of the spectrum of tropical convective systems, particularly as current climate models advance and parameterizations continually mature. Our work focuses on the characteristics of convection event life cycles, factors that control event propagation, and aspects of feedback to the environment in TWP.

All precipitation events are observed within a 4-yr (2006.4-2010.4) period over TWP. Events are categorized according to their longevity. Events start from relatively warm SST and optimal shear, and terminate at cooler SSTs and decreased shear. The extent to which wind shear and small-scale convergence boundaries and/or cold pool dynamics influence the event propagation direction is investigated. SST/moisture along the path, representing the potential energy, amplifies or dissipates the precipitation events. TRMM Precipitation shows a clear evolution of the convection structure as events propagate. The rainfall event lifecycle starts from shallow cumulus clusters, evolves to unorganized deep clusters within 6 hours, then increases in organization and dissipates to stratiform by the end.

Precipitation system diabatic heating (Q1) and moistening (Q2) terms are calculated from the TRMM Spectral LH product. The maximum level for heat release is near 5km. Two dominant peaks in moistening occur: one within the PBL and the other near LCL. The feedbacks of different convective cloud clusters to the large-scale environment are different; shallow convection helps to transport heat and moisture to the mid-troposphere, while deep convection consumes the mid-troposphere energy.

Accurate analysis of the global heat and momentum budgets critically depends on an adequate understanding of propagating convective systems. This study highlight the importance of properly modeling precipitation events in order to achieve realistic global climate model simulations.