Vertical Motions in Convective Clouds Over Darwin, Australia

Friday, 18 December 2015: 16:45
3006 (Moscone West)
Holly Mallinson, University of Louisiana Monroe, Monroe, LA, United States, Courtney Schumacher, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, United States and Fiaz Ahmed, Texas A&M University, Bryan, TX, United States
Vertical motions are essential in parameterizing convection in large-scale models. Yet in tropical systems vertical motions are difficult to obtain, especially in areas of active convection. This study uses three months of profiler data from Darwin, Australia to directly compare vertical velocity and spectrum width with reflectivity at a height of 1 km (a near-surface rain proxy) for shallow, mid-level, and deep convective clouds. Vertical velocities for all convective clouds were also compared to echo-top heights of varying reflectivities to better understand convective cloud dynamics in relation to their vertical structure.

In shallow convective clouds (tops <4 km) three distinct regimes appear: a weak up-and downdraft couplet at low reflectivities (0-15 dBz), a robust updraft at moderate reflectivities (20-35 dBz), and strong downdrafts at large reflectivities (>40 dBz). These regimes could represent different stages in the convective cloud life cycle with strong updrafts and moderate reflectivity occurring in the growing phase and strong downdrafts and large reflectivity occurring in the mature phase. The weak up-and downdraft couplet and low reflectivities suggest a dissipating phase. Mid-level convective clouds (tops 4-8 km) also show three distinct regimes: moderate updrafts at low reflectivities (possible growing phase), a weak up-and downdraft couplet at moderate reflectivities (possible dissipating phase), and strong up-and downdrafts at large reflectivities (mature phase). Deep convective clouds (tops >8 km) show strong updrafts above 4 km for all reflectivities with the strongest downdrafts occurring at large reflectivities. While maximum updrafts vary in height and occur at different reflectivities among cloud types, mean downdraft depth never exceeds 3 km and is always strongest at large reflectivities, which may allow better characterization of cold pool properties. Throughout all convective cloud types, spectrum width has the highest values at lower heights than where the strongest up-and downdrafts occur while also showing a maximum value core around the transition height. In addition, maximum vertical motions occur at or just beneath the 30-dBz echo-top height in all convective clouds, notably in the mixed phase region, suggesting possible links to electrification.