Atmospheric Controls on Soil Moisture-boundary Layer Interactions: Three-dimensional Wind Effects

Title Atmospheric Controls on Soil Moisture-boundary Layer Interactions: Three-dimensional Wind Effects
Publication Type Journal Article
Year of Publication 2003
Authors Findell, K. L. & Eltahir, E. A. B.
Volume 108
Date Published 2003
Keywords boundary layer processes, convective processes, hydroclimatology, land/atmosphere interactions, precipitation, soil moisture
Abstract paper expands the one-dimensionally based CTP-HIlow framework for describing atmospheric controls on soil moisture-boundary layer interactions {[}Findell and Eltahir, 2003] to three dimensions by including low-level wind effects in the analysis. The framework is based on two measures of atmospheric thermodynamic properties: the convective triggering potential (CTP), a measure of the temperature lapse rate between approximately 1 and 3 km above the ground surface, and a low-level humidity index, HIlow. These two measures are used to distinguish between three types of early morning soundings: those favoring rainfall over dry soils, those favoring rainfall over wet soils, and those whose convective potential is unaffected by the partitioning of fluxes at the surface. The focus of this paper is the additional information gained by incorporating information about low-level winds into the CTP-HIlow framework. Three-dimensional simulations using MM5 and an analysis of observations from the FIFE experiment within this framework highlight the importance of the winds in determining the sensitivity of convection to fluxes from the land surface. A very important impact of the 3D winds is the potential for low-level backing or unidirectional winds with great shear to suppress convective potential. Because of this suppression of convection in certain wind conditions, far fewer simulations produced rain than would be anticipated based solely on the 1D framework of understanding. However, when the winds allowed, convection occurred in a manner consistent with the 1D-based expectations. Generally speaking, in the regime where dry soils were expected to have an advantage, convection was triggered over dry soils more often than over wet; in the regime where wet soils were expected to have an advantage, convection was more frequently triggered over wet soils than over dry. Additionally, when rainfall occurred in both simulations with wet soils and simulations with dry soils for a given day, rainfall depths were typically greater in the simulations with wet soils. Similarly, the FIFE data showed numerous days with convective potential but no rainfall: each of these days had low-level backing or strongly shearing winds. Four days with high humidity deficits and veering winds in the lowest 300 mbar did have rain, highlighting the enhanced buoyancy effects of low-level veering winds.

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