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Surface and atmospheric controls on the onset of moist convection over land

Gentine, Pierre; Holtslag, Albert A. M.; D’Andrea, Fabio; Ek, Michael

The onset of moist convection over land is investigated using a conceptual approach with a slab boundary layer model. We here determine the essential factors for the onset of boundary layer clouds over land, and study their relative importance. They are: 1) the ratio of the temperature to the moisture lapse rates of the free troposphere, i.e. the inversion Bowen ratio, 2) the mean-daily surface temperature, 3) the relative humidity of the free troposphere and 4) the surface evaporative fraction. A clear transition is observed between two regimes of moistening of the boundary layer as assessed by the relative humidity at the boundary layer top. In the first so-called wet soil advantage regime, the moistening results from the increase of the mixed-layer specific humidity, which linearly depends on the surface evaporative fraction and inversion Bowen ratio through a dynamic boundary layer factor. In the second so-called dry soil advantage regime, the relative humidity tendency at the boundary layer top is controlled by the thermodynamics and changes in the moist adiabatic induced by the decreased temperature at the boundary layer top and consequent reduction in saturation water vapor pressure. This regime pertains for very deep boundary layers under weakly stratified free troposphere over hot surface conditions. In the context of the conceptual model, a rise in free-tropospheric temperature (global warming) increases the occurrence of deep convection and reduces the cloud cover over moist surfaces. This study provides new intuition and predictive capacity on the mechanism controlling the occurrence of moist convection over land.

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Title
Journal of Hydrometeorology
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1175/JHM-D-12-0137.1

More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth and Environmental Engineering
Published Here
September 25, 2013