Precipitating Convective Cloud Downdraft Structure: a Synthesis of Observations and Modeling
This study represents a comprehensive investigation in which observations are integrated with three-dimensional cloud model results to examine the kinematic, dynamic and thermodynamic structure of downdrafts associated with precipitating convection. One particular downdraft type, the low-level precipitation-associated downdraft, is investigated in considerable detail. General airflow and trajectory patterns within low-level down- drafts are typically convergent from (TURN)0.8 km upwards to downdraft top, typically less than 5 km AGL. Observed mass flux profiles often increase rapidly with decreasing height as a result of strong buoyancy forcing below the melting level. Such patterns indicate that strong cooling by melting and evaporation within statically unstable low levels generates low perturbation pressure by virtue of buoyantly-induced pressure perturbations. Cloud model results verify this process and indicate that pressure perturbations are strongest during downdraft developing stages. Maximum modeled pressure reductions up to 2 mb are located within downdrafts and precipitation about 0.6 km below the 273 K level approximately 10 min after heavy precipitation (>2(, )g kg('-1)) enters low levels. The magnitude of this buoyantly-produced pressure reduction is influenced by temperature, static stability, relative humidity and precipitation characteristics. Inflow to the low-level downdraft, although vertically continuous, can be separated into two branches. The up -down branch originating within the PBL initially rises up to 4 km and then descends within the main precipitation downdraft. The midlevel branch, most pronounced during early downdraft stages, originates from above the PBL and transports low-valued (theta)(,e) to low levels. Pressure forces important along both branches act to lift stable air along the up-down branch, and provide downward forcing of positively-buoyant air in the upper regions of both branches. Two primary conclusions are drawn from the results of this study: (1) Downdrafts are driven at low levels within regions of strong static instability by strong cooling provided by melting and evaporation. Cloud level entrainment effects make secondary contributions. (2) Precipitation size and phase are probably the most important controlling parameters for downdraft strength.
- Pub Date:
- Physics: Atmospheric Science