Role of nocturnal turbulence and advection in the formation of shallow cumulus over land

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10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Shallow cumuli over land are normally studied from a diurnal perspective. However, the thermodynamic vertical profiles of the morning transition may play an important role in setting up favourable conditions for the formation of shallow cumuli. In turn, these profiles are highly dependent on the evolution of the nocturnal boundary characteristics and of their layer aloft. By analysing thermodynamic profiles measured by radiosondes launched every three hours at four different stations, we are able to determine how horizontal advection and turbulent mixing modify the atmospheric stability and the differences in potential temperature and specific humidity at the interface between the atmospheric boundary layer and the layer above it. Two consecutive nights are studied. They show very similar boundary-layer development; but variations in the layer aloft by a low-level-jet advection event during the second night, and intense turbulent mechanical mixing, lead to the development of two diurnal boundary layers with very different characteristics: the first one clear, the second cloudy. To complete the observational study, we perform a sensitivity analysis using a mixed-layer model to examine the role of the morning initial conditions in the formation of shallow cumuli over land. The complexity and subtlety of the observed situation - namely, the interaction of a strongly-mixed nocturnal boundary layer and horizontal advection - make this case suitable for testing the capacity of mesoscale models to reproduce cloudy boundary layers that are largely dependent on conditions during the previous night.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1615-1627
JournalQuarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
Volume133
Issue number628
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Keywords

  • convective boundary-layer
  • low-level jet
  • diurnal cycle
  • model
  • simulation
  • inversion
  • moisture

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