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Shallow convective heating in weak temperature gradient balance explains mesoscale vertical motions in the trades
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  • Martin Janssens,
  • Geet George,
  • Hauke Schulz,
  • Fleur Couvreux,
  • Dominique Bouniol
Martin Janssens
Wageningen University & Research

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Geet George
Delft University of Technology
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Hauke Schulz
University of Washington
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Fleur Couvreux
Université Toulouse, CNRM, Meteo-France, CNRS
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Dominique Bouniol
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Earth’s climate sensitivity depends on how shallow clouds in the trades respond to changes in the large-scale tropical circulation with warming. In all theory for this cloud-circulation coupling, it is assumed that the clouds are controlled by the field of vertical motion on horizontal scales larger than the convection’s depth (~1 km). Yet this assumption has been challenged both by recent in-situ observations, and idealised large-eddy simulations (LESs). Here, we therefore bring together the recent observations, new analysis from satellite data, and a forty-day, large-domain (1600 x 900 km2) LES of the North Atlantic from the 2020 EUREC4A field campaign, in search of new explanations for the interaction between shallow convection and vertical motions, on scales between 10-1000 km (mesoscales). Across all datasets, the shallow mesoscale vertical motions are consistently represented, ubiquitous, frequently organised into circulations, and formed without imprinting themselves on the mesoscale buoyancy field. This allows us to employ the weak-temperature gradient approximation, which shows that between at least 12.5-400 km scales, the vertical motion balances heating fluctuations in groups of precipitating shallow cumuli. That is, across the mesoscales, shallow convection controls the vertical motion in the trades, and does not simply adjust to it. In turn, the mesoscale convective heating patterns appear to consistently grow through moisture-convection feedback. Therefore, to represent and understand the cloud-circulation coupling of trade cumuli, the full range of scales between the synoptics and the hectometre must be included in our conceptual and numerical models.
24 Apr 2024Submitted to ESS Open Archive
26 Apr 2024Published in ESS Open Archive