Under what conditions does embedded convection enhance orographic precipitation?
Cannon, D. J., Kirshbaum, D. J. and Gray, S. L. (2012) Under what conditions does embedded convection enhance orographic precipitation? Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 138 (663). pp. 391-406. ISSN 0035-9009
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1002/qj.926
Idealised convection-permitting simulations are used to quantify the impact of embedded convection on the precipitation generated by moist flow over midlatitude mountain ridges. A broad range of mountain dimensions and moist stabilities are considered to encompass a spectrum of physically plausible flows. The simulations reveal that convection only enhances orographic precipitation in cap clouds that are otherwise unable to efficiently convert cloud condensate into precipitate. For tall and wide mountains (e.g. the Washington Cascades or the southern Andes), precipitate forms efficiently through vapour deposition and collection, even in the absence of embedded convection. When embedded convection develops in such clouds, it produces competing effects (enhanced condensation in updraughts and enhanced evaporation through turbulent mixing and compensating subsidence) that cancel to yield little net change in precipitation. By contrast, convection strongly enhances precipitation over short and narrow mountains (e.g. the UK Pennines or the Oregon Coastal Range) where precipitation formation is otherwise highly inefficient. Although cancellation between increased condensation and evaporation still occurs, the enhanced precipitation formation within the convective updraughts leads to a net increase in precipitation efficiency. The simulations are physically interpreted through non-dimensional diagnostics and relevant time-scales that govern advective, microphysical, and convective processes.
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