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Convective Storm Initiation in a Moist Tropical Environment

 Radar and satellite data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission–Large-Scale Biosphere–Atmosphere (TRMM–LBA) project have been examined to determine causes for convective storm initiation in the southwest Amazon region. The locations and times of storm initiation were based on the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) S-band dual-polarization Doppler radar (S-Pol). Both the radar and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-8 (GOES-8) visible data were used to identify cold pools produced by convective precipitation. These data along with high-resolution topographic data were used to determine possible convective storm triggering mechanisms. The terrain elevation varied from 100 to 600 m. Tropical forests cover the area with numerous clear-cut areas used for cattle grazing and farming. This paper presents the results from 5 February 1999. A total of 315 storms were initiated within 130 km of the S-Pol radar. This day was classified as a weak monsoon regime where convection developed in response to the diurnal cycle of solar heating. Scattered shallow cumulus during the morning developed into deep convection by early afternoon. Storm initiation began about 1100 LST and peaked around 1500–1600 LST. The causes of storm initiation were classified into four categories. The most common initiation mechanism was caused by forced lifting by a gust front (GF; 36%). Forcing by terrain (>300 m) without any other triggering mechanism accounted for 21% of the initiations and colliding GFs accounted for 16%. For the remaining 27% a triggering mechanism was not identified. Examination of all days during TRMM–LBA showed that this one detailed study day was representative of many days. A conceptual model of storm initiation and evolution is presented. The results of this study should have implications for other locations when synoptic-scale forcing mechanisms are at a minimum. These results should also have implications for very short-period forecasting techniques in any location where terrain, GFs, and colliding boundaries influence storm evolution.

LIMA, M. A.; WILSON, J. W. . Convective Storm Initiation in a Moist Tropical Environment. Monthly Weather Review, v. 136, p. 1847, 2008.