Cloud-resolving simulations of deep convection over a heated mountain
Kirshbaum, D. (2011) Cloud-resolving simulations of deep convection over a heated mountain. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 68 (2). pp. 361-378. ISSN 1520-0469
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/2010JAS3642.1
Cloud-resolving numerical simulations of airflow over a diurnally heated mountain ridge are conducted to explore the mechanisms and sensitivities of convective initiation under high pressure conditions. The simulations are based on a well-observed convection event from the Convective and Orographically Induced Precipitation Study (COPS) during summer 2007, where an isolated afternoon thunderstorm developed over the Black Forest mountains of central Europe, but they are idealized to facilitate understanding and reduce computational expense. In the conditionally unstable but strongly inhibited flow under consideration, sharp horizontal convergence over the mountain acts to locally weaken the inhibition and moisten the dry midtroposphere through shallow cumulus detrainment. The onset of deep convection occurs not through the deep ascent of a single updraft but rather through a rapid succession of thermals that are vented through the mountain convergence zone into the deepening cloud mass. Emerging thermals rise through the saturated wakes of their predecessors, which diminishes the suppressive effects of entrainment and allows for rapid glaciation above the freezing level as supercooled cloud drops rime onto preexisting ice particles. These effects strongly enhance the midlevel cloud buoyancy and enable rapid ascent to the tropopause. The existence and vigor of the convection is highly sensitive to small changes in background wind speed U0, which controls the strength of the mountain convergence and the ability of midlevel moisture to accumulate above the mountain. Whereas vigorous deep convection develops for U0 = 0 m s−1, deep convection is completely eliminated for U0 = 3 m s−1. Although deep convection is able to develop under intermediate winds (U0 = 1.5 m s−1), its formation is highly sensitive to small-amplitude perturbations in the initial flow.