Modes of tropical convection and their roles in transporting moisture and moist static energy: contrast between deep and shallow convection

Yi Chien Chen, Jia Yuh Yu

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1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The dominant modes of convection (vertical motion) in the tropical convective regions were explored using the EOF analysis method and the ERA-interim reanalysis data, with an emphasis on comparing their roles in transporting moisture and moist static energy (MSE). Two major types of convection orthogonal to each other were identified in the deep tropics, including deep and shallow convection. The deep convection, derived from the 1st EOF mode of vertical motion, shows different vertical structures (e.g., top-heavy versus bottom-heavy) under different thermodynamic environments (e.g., west versus east Pacific); while the shallow convection, derived from the 2nd EOF mode of vertical motion, exhibits opposite signs of vertical structure (e.g., positive and negative) between upper and lower troposphere. The two subtypes of deep convection exhibit distinct tendencies in moisture and MSE transport, i.e., while both import moisture into the atmosphere, the top-heavy one tends to export MSE, leading to a stabilized atmosphere; whereas the bottom-heavy counterpart inclines to import MSE, resulting in a destabilized atmosphere. On the contrary, the two subtypes of shallow convection display a consistent tendency in moisture and MSE transport, i.e., the positive shallow convection imports moisture and MSE; whereas the negative counterpart exports moisture and MSE. More importantly, the MSE transport by shallow convection (including positive and negative ones) can be comparable in size with the MSE transport by deep convection (including top-heavy and bottom-heavy ones), implying a non-negligible role played by shallow convection in charging and discharging the atmosphere in addition to the commonly recognized deep convection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1789-1803
Number of pages15
JournalClimate Dynamics
Volume57
Issue number7-8
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Deep convection
  • Moist static energy transport
  • Shallow convection

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