Multiscale convective wave disturbances in the tropics: Insights from a two-dimensional cloud-resolving model

Stefan N. Tulich, Brian E. Mapes

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65 Scopus citations


Multiscale convective wave disturbances with structures broadly resembling observed tropical waves are found to emerge spontaneously in a nonrotating, two-dimensional cloud model forced by uniform cooling. To articulate the dynamics of these waves, model outputs are objectively analyzed in a discrete truncated space consisting of three cloud types (shallow convective, deep convective, and stratiform) and three dynamical vertical wavelength bands. Model experiments confirm that diabatic processes in deep convective and stratiform regions are essential to the formation of multiscale convective wave patterns. Specifically, upper-level heating (together with low-level cooling) serves to preferentially excite discrete horizontally propagating wave packets with roughly a full-wavelength structure in troposphere and "dry" phase speeds cn in the range 16-18 m s-1. These wave packets enhance the triggering of new deep convective cloud systems, via low-level destabilization. The new convection in turn causes additional heating over cooling, through delayed development of high-based deep convective cells with persistent stratiform anvils. This delayed forcing leads to an intensification and then widening of the low-level cold phases of wave packets as they move through convecting regions. Additional widening occurs when slower-moving (∼8 m s-1) "gust front" wave packets excited by cooling just above the boundary layer trigger additional deep convection in the vicinity of earlier convection. Shallow convection, meanwhile, provides positive forcing that reduces convective wave speeds and destroys relatively small-amplitude-sized waves. Experiments with prescribed modal wind damping establish the critical role of short vertical wavelengths in setting the equivalent depth of the waves. However, damping of deep vertical wavelengths prevents the clustering of mesoscale convective wave disturbances into larger-scale envelopes, so these circulations are important as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-155
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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