Counter-Gradient Momentum Transport Through Subtropical Shallow Convection in ICON-LEM Simulations

Vishal Dixit, Louise Nuijens, Kevin C. Helfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


It is well known that subtropical shallow convection transports heat and water vapor upwards from the surface. It is less clear if it also transports horizontal momentum upwards to significantly affect the trade winds in which it is embedded. We utilize unique multiday large-eddy simulations run over the tropical Atlantic with ICON-LEM to investigate the character of shallow convective momentum transport (CMT). For a typical trade-wind profile during boreal winter, CMT acts as an apparent friction to decelerate the north-easterly flow. This effect maximizes below the cloud base while in the cloud layer, friction is very small, although present over a relatively deep layer. In the cloud layer, the zonal component of the momentum flux is counter-gradient and penetrates deeper than reported in traditional shallow cumulus LES cases. The transport through conditionally sampled convective updrafts and downdrafts explains a weak friction effect, but not the counter-gradient flux near the cloud tops. The analysis of the momentum flux budget reveals that, in the cloud layer, the counter-gradient flux is driven by convectively triggered nonhydrostatic pressure-gradients and horizontal circulations surrounding the clouds. A model set-up with large domain size and realistic boundary conditions is necessary to resolve these effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020MS002352
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • convective momentum transport
  • counter-gradient flux
  • cumulus friction
  • large-eddy simulations
  • momentum flux budget
  • shallow cumulus clouds


Dive into the research topics of 'Counter-Gradient Momentum Transport Through Subtropical Shallow Convection in ICON-LEM Simulations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this