Convective transition statistics over tropical oceans for climate model diagnostics: Observational baseline
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Convective transition statistics over tropical oceans for climate model diagnostics: Observational baseline

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  • Journal Title:
    Journal of Atmospheric Sciences
  • Description:
    Convective transition statistics, which describe the relation between column-integrated water vapor (CWV) and precipitation, are compiled over tropical oceans using satellite and ARM site measurements to quantify the temperature and resolution dependence of the precipitation–CWV relation at fast time scales relevant to convection. At these time scales, and for precipitation especially, uncertainties associated with observational systems must be addressed by examining features with a variety of instrumentation and identifying robust behaviors versus instrument sensitivity at high rain rates. Here the sharp pickup in precipitation as CWV exceeds a certain critical threshold is found to be insensitive to spatial resolution, with convective onset occurring at higher CWV but at lower column relative humidity as bulk tropospheric temperature increases. Mean tropospheric temperature profiles conditioned on precipitation show vertically coherent structure across a wide range of temperature, reaffirming the use of a bulk temperature measure in defining the convective transition statistics. The joint probability distribution of CWV and precipitation develops a peak probability at low precipitation for CWV above critical, with rapidly decreasing probability of high precipitation below and near critical, and exhibits systematic changes under spatial averaging. The precipitation pickup with CWV is reasonably insensitive to time averaging up to several hours but is smoothed at daily time scales. This work demonstrates that CWV relative to critical serves as an effective predictor of precipitation with only minor geographic variations in the tropics, quantifies precipitation-related statistics subject to different spatial–temporal resolution, and provides a baseline for model comparison to apply these statistics as observational constraints on precipitation processes.
  • Source:
    J. Atmos. Sci. (2018) 75(5): 1553–1570
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