School of Earth Sciences - Research Publications

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    Rapidly Evolving Cirrus Clouds Modulated by Convectively Generated Gravity Waves
    Prasad, AA ; Sherwood, SC ; Reeder, MJ ; Lane, TP (AMER GEOPHYSICAL UNION, 2019-07-16)
    Cirrus clouds can strongly affect Earth's radiation balance, but questions remain about their growth mechanisms and rates. Here we show that gravity (buoyancy) waves generated by a storm in Northern Australia on 13 November 2015 caused an observable rippling effect on cirrus clouds up to 1,000 km away, as seen by the recently launched Himawari-8/9 geostationary satellite. Regional model simulations reproduce the propagation speed of the wave, which agrees with theoretical predictions, and show that the wave amplitude and timing near the tropopause can account for the cirrus modulation. The observed cirrus reach peak optical depths of order 0.3–1.0 and appear roughly in phase with the arrival of the relative humidity maximum, providing new evidence that cirrus clouds can respond rapidly (<30 min) to environmental lifting. Moreover, the edge of a thick anvil cloud attached to the storm itself is observed to expand at the same speed as the wave, showing that the lifting mechanism can also apply to optically thicker ice clouds close to convective centers.
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    A first evaluation of the contribution of aeolian sand transport to lagoon island accretion in the Maldives
    Hilton, MJ ; Borrie, DR ; Konlechner, TM ; Wakes, SJ ; Lane, TP ; Kench, PS ; Kennedy, DM ; Aslam, M (Elsevier, 2019-08-01)
    Aeolian sedimentation and dune development have not been reported from coral atolls at equatorial latitudes. This study presents high-frequency measurements of incident and near surface wind flow and aeolian sand transport on a lagoon sand cay (Maaodegalaa) in the Maldives. Sonic anemometers and Wenglor™ particle counters were operated at 1 Hz for 8 days during the Iruvai monsoon in February 2018. Sand traps were deployed to estimate sand flux and island topography and vegetation cover were surveyed using UAV (un-manned aerial vehicle) photogrammetry and a laser level (in 2017 and 2018). Flow over beach scarps is 10 modelled using computational fluid dynamics. Maaodegalaa sand cay reaches just 0.9m above the highest spring high tides. Nebkha, between 0.10 and 0.40 m high, are widespread and are associated with Scaevola taccada and Cyperus conglomeratus. Between 2017 and 2018 the eastern section of the sand cay accreted 0.3 m following Cyperus colonisation. Reptation and aeolian ripple development occurred during fieldwork when near-surface flows exceeded 6 ms-1. Saltation occurred at higher wind speeds (8 ms-1). The highest rates of sand transport occurred during north-east incident winds of 12 ms-1 (at 6 m), that were probably generated by surface-based density currents under cumulonimbus clouds. Spatially, higher rates of sand transport were recorded downwind of a beach scarp, probably forced by flow acceleration. We propose a conceptual model of lagoon island formation, with both over-wash and aeolian sedimentation contributing to island accretion. A period of aeolian sedimentation may be critical to the emergence of sand cays.
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    Identifying Key Controls on Storm Formation over the Lake Victoria Basin
    Woodhams, BJ ; Birch, CE ; Marsham, JH ; Lane, TP ; Bain, CL ; Webster, S (AMER METEOROLOGICAL SOC, 2019-09-01)
    The Lake Victoria region in East Africa is a hot spot for intense convective storms that are responsible for the deaths of thousands of fishermen each year. The processes responsible for the initiation, development, and propagation of the storms are poorly understood and forecast skill is limited. Key processes for the life cycle of two storms are investigated using Met Office Unified Model convection-permitting simulations with 1.5 km horizontal grid spacing. The two cases are analyzed alongside a simulation of a period with no storms to assess the roles of the lake–land breeze, downslope mountain winds, prevailing large-scale winds, and moisture availability. While seasonal changes in large-scale moisture availability play a key role in storm development, the lake–land-breeze circulation is a major control on the initiation location, timing, and propagation of convection. In the dry season, opposing offshore winds form a bulge of moist air above the lake surface overnight that extends from the surface to ~1.5 km and may trigger storms in high CAPE/low CIN environments. Such a feature has not been explicitly observed or modeled in previous literature. Storms over land on the preceding day are shown to alter the local atmospheric moisture and circulation to promote storm formation over the lake. The variety of initiation processes and differing characteristics of just two storms analyzed here show that the mean diurnal cycle over Lake Victoria alone is inadequate to fully understand storm formation. Knowledge of daily changes in local-scale moisture variability and circulations are keys for skillful forecasts over the lake.
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    The role of gravity wave breaking in a case of upper-level near-cloud turbulence
    Zovko-Rajak, D ; Lane, TP ; Sharman, RD ; Trier, SB (American Meteorological Society, 2019)
    An observed turbulence encounter that occurred outside a mesoscale convective system over the central USA on 3 June 2005 is investigated using observations and high resolution numerical modeling. Here, the mechanisms associated with the observed moderate-to-severe turbulence during the evolution of this convective system are examined. Comparison between aircraftobserved eddy dissipation rate data with satellite and radar shows that a majority of turbulence reports are located on the south side and outside of a nocturnal mesoscale convective system (MCS), relatively large distances from the active convective regions. Simulations show that divergent storm-induced upper-level outflow reduces the environmental flow on the south side of the MCS, while on the north and northwest side it enhances the environmental flow. This upper-level storm outflow enhances the vertical shear near the flight levels and contributes to mesoscale reductions in Richardson number to values that support turbulence. In addition to the role of the MCS-induced outflow, high-resolution simulations (1.1-km horizontal grid spacing) show that turbulence is largely associated with a large amplitude gravity wave generated by the convective system, which propagates away from it. As the wave propagates in the region with enhanced vertical shear caused by the storm-induced upper-level outflow, it amplifies, overturns and breaks down into turbulence. The location of the simulated turbulence relative to the storm agrees with the observations and the analysis herein provides insight into the key processes underlying this event.
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    Diurnal Cycle of Surface Winds in the Maritime Continent Observed through Satellite Scatterometry
    Short, E ; Vincent, CL ; Lane, TP (AMER METEOROLOGICAL SOC, 2019-06-01)
    Abstract The diurnal cycle of surface winds throughout the Maritime Continent plays a significant role in the formation of precipitation over the islands of the region and over the surrounding seas. This study investigates the connection between the diurnal cycles of surface wind and offshore precipitation using data from four satellite scatterometer instruments and two satellite precipitation radar instruments. For the first time, data from three scatterometer instruments are combined to yield a more temporally complete picture of the surface wind diurnal cycles over the Maritime Continent’s surrounding seas. The results indicate that land–sea breezes typically propagate over 400 km offshore, produce mean wind perturbations of between 1 and 5 m s−1, and propagate as gravity waves at 25–30 m s−1. Diurnal precipitation cycles are affected through gravity wave propagation processes associated with the land–sea breezes, and through the convergence of land breezes from nearby islands. These observational results are then compared with previous mesoscale modeling results. It is shown that land–sea breezes occur too early, and are too intense in these modeling results, and this may partly explain why these modeling results also exhibit an early, overly intense diurnal precipitation cycle. This study also investigates variations in the diurnal cycle of surface winds at seasonal and intraseasonal time scales. Previous work has suggested that seasonal and intraseasonal variations in surface heating affect the land–sea breeze circulation and diurnal precipitation cycles; we argue that variations in background winds also play a defining role in modulating coastally influenced local winds.
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    The Role of Cold Pools in Tropical Oceanic Convective Systems
    Grant, LD ; Lane, TP ; van den Heever, SC (American Meteorological Society, 2018)
    The processes governing organized tropical convective systems are not completely understood, despite their important influences on the tropical atmosphere and global circulation. In particular, cold pools are known to influence the structure and maintenance of midlatitude systems via Rotunno-Klemp-Weisman (RKW) theory, but cold pools may interact differently with tropical convection because of differences in cold pool strength and environmental shear. In this study, the role of cold pools in organized oceanic tropical convective systems is investigated, including their influence on system intensity, mesoscale structure, and propagation. To accomplish this goal, high-resolution idealized simulations are performed of two different systems that are embedded within a weakly sheared cloud population approaching radiative-convective equilibrium. The cold pools are altered by changing evaporation rates below cloud base in a series of sensitivity tests.The simulations demonstrate surprising findings: when cold pools are weakened, the convective systems become more intense. However, their propagation speeds and mesoscale structure are largely unaffected by the cold pool changes. Passive tracers introduced into the cold pools indicate that the convection intensifies when cold pools are weakened because cold pool air is entrained into updrafts, thereby reducing updraft intensity via the cold pools’ initial negative buoyancy. Gravity waves, rather than cold pools, appear to be the important modulators of system propagation and mesoscale structure. These results re-confirm that RKW theory does not fully explain the behavior of tropical oceanic convective systems, even those that otherwise appear consistent with RKW-thinking.
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    The Mechanisms Leading to a Stratospheric Hydration by Overshooting Convection
    Dauhut, T ; Chaboureau, J-P ; Haynes, PH ; Lane, TP (American Meteorological Society, 2018-12-01)
    Overshoots are convective air parcels that rise beyond their level of neutral buoyancy. A giga-large-eddy simulation (100-m cubic resolution) of ''Hector the Convector,'' a deep convective system that regularly forms in northern Australia, is analyzed to identify overshoots and quantify the effect of hydration of the stratosphere. In the simulation, 1507 individual overshoots were identified, and 46 of them were tracked over more than 10 min. Hydration of the stratosphere occurs through a sequence of mechanisms: overshoot penetration into the stratosphere, followed by entrainment of stratospheric air and then by efficient turbulent mixing between the air in the overshoot and the entrained warmer air, leaving the subsequent mixed air at about the maximumovershooting altitude. The time scale of these mechanisms is about 1 min. Two categories of overshoots are distinguished: those that significantly hydrate the stratosphere and those that have little direct hydration effect. The former reach higher altitudes and hence entrain and mix with air that has higher potential temperatures. The resulting mixed air has higher temperatures and higher saturation mixing ratios. Therefore, a greater amount of the hydrometeors carried by the original overshoot sublimates to form a persistent vapor-enriched layer. This makes the maximum overshooting altitude the key prognostic for the parameterization of deep convection to represent the correct overshoot transport. One common convection parameterization is tested, and the results suggest that the overshoot downward acceleration due to negative buoyancy is too large relative to that predicted by the numerical simulations and needs to be reduced.
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    Coupled Atmophere-Fire Simulations of the Black Saturday Kilmor East Wildfires With the Unified Model
    Toivanen, J ; Engel, CB ; Reeder, MJ ; Lane, TP ; Davies, L ; Webster, S ; Wales, S (AMER GEOPHYSICAL UNION, 2019-01-01)
    A model for the spread of a wildfire is developed within the U.K. Met Office Unified Model (UM) and used to simulate the Kilmore East fire complex (in southeastern Australia) on Black Saturday (7 February 2009). The UM is configured with four nests with horizontal grid spacings of 4 km, 1.5 km, 444 m, and 144 m. In the first simulation, the UM simply provides predictions of the near-surface conditions for the wildfire model with no feedbacks to the atmosphere from the fire. In the second, the atmosphere and fire are coupled, allowing the fire to affect the local-scale weather. The agreement between the coupled simulation and the observed fire behavior is reasonably good. For example, the area burnt is approximately 80% of the actual area burnt. However, such agreement is achieved only by coupling the fire to the atmosphere and, importantly, by igniting 18 additional fires at the times and places the long-range transport of burning material (spotting) was observed. Without coupling the burnt area is about half of that observed. The calculations reported here suggest that the behavior and spread of fires like the Kilmore East fire are predictable but only when long-range spotting is included and the atmosphere and fires are coupled. Additional numerical experiments with coarser grids suggest that, although the details of the fire spread are lost, a grid spacing of 1.5 km may be sufficient to simulate the main features of the fire spread.
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    Mesoscale Variation in Diabatic Heating around Sumatra, and Its Modulation with the Madden-Julian Oscillation
    Vincent, CL ; Lane, TP (AMER METEOROLOGICAL SOC, 2018-08-01)
    Diabatic heating in the Maritime Continent region is controlled by a unique blend of mesoscale variability associated with steep topography and complex coastlines and intraseasonal variability associated with propagating planetary-scale disturbances. In this study, the diabatic heating from a 10-yr austral summer simulation over the Maritime Continent with a 4-km horizontal grid length is analyzed with respect to diurnal, spatial, and intraseasonal variations. Results are compared, where possible, to analogous estimates from the TRMM precipitation radar. We show that the heating budget is largely a balance between latent heating and vertical advection, with rays of heating and cooling extending upward and outward from the coast evident in the advection terms, consistent with the gravity wave representation of the tropical sea breeze. By classifying rainfall into convective and stratiform components, it is shown that simulated convective heating over Sumatra peaks in MJO phases 2 and 3, while simulated stratiform heating peaks in phase 4. Similarly, spectral latent heating estimates from the TRMM Precipitation Radar show that stratiform heating peaks in phases 3 and 4, while convective heating peaks in phases 2 and 3. It is also shown that stratiform precipitation plays a greater role in offshore precipitation during the night, albeit with embedded convective cores, than over the land during the day. These results emphasize the importance of achieving a realistic representation of convective and stratiform processes in high-resolution simulations in the tropics, both for total rainfall estimates and for realistic latent heating
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    Cloud, precipitation and radiation responses to large perturbations in global dimethyl sulfide
    Fiddes, SL ; Woodhouse, MT ; Nicholls, Z ; Lane, TP ; Schofield, R (Copernicus Publications, 2018)
    Natural aerosol emission represents one of the largest uncertainties in our understanding of the radiation budget. Sulfur emitted by marine organisms, as dimethyl sulfide (DMS), constitutes one-fifth of the global sulfur budget and yet the distribution, fluxes and fate of DMS remain poorly constrained. This study evaluates the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS) United Kingdom Chemistry and Aerosol (UKCA) model in terms of cloud fraction, radiation and precipitation, and then quantifies the role of DMS in the chemistry–climate system. We find that ACCESS-UKCA has similar cloud and radiation biases to other global climate models. By removing all DMS, or alternatively significantly enhancing marine DMS, we find a top of the atmosphere radiative effect of 1.7 and −1.4W m−2 respectively. The largest responses to these DMS perturbations (removal/enhancement) are in stratiform cloud decks in the Southern Hemisphere's eastern ocean basins. These regions show significant differences in low cloud (−9∕ + 6%), surface incoming shortwave radiation (+7∕ − 5W m−2) and large-scale rainfall (+15∕ − 10%). We demonstrate a precipitation suppression effect of DMS-derived aerosol in stratiform cloud deck regions due to DMS, coupled with an increase in low cloud fraction. The difference in low cloud fraction is an example of the aerosol lifetime effect. Globally, we find a sensitivity of temperature to annual DMS flux of 0.027 and 0.019K per Tg yr−1 of sulfur, respectively. Other areas of low cloud formation, such as the Southern Ocean and stratiform cloud decks in the Northern Hemisphere, have a relatively weak response to DMS perturbations. We highlight the need for greater understanding of the DMS–climate cycle within the context of uncertainties and biases of climate models as well as those of DMS–climate observations.