The Influence of Convective Momentum Transport and Vertical Wind Shear on the Evolution of a Cold Air Outbreak

B. Saggiorato*, L. Nuijens, P. Siebesma, S. de Roode, I. Sandu, L. Papritz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
84 Downloads (Pure)


To study the influence of convective momentum transport (CMT) on wind, boundary layer and cloud evolution in a marine cold air outbreak (CAO) we use large-eddy simulations subject to different baroclinicity (wind shear) but similar surface forcing. The simulated domain is large enough, (Formula presented.) km2), to develop typical mesoscale cellular convective structures. We find that a maximum friction induced by momentum transport (MT) locates in the cloud layer for an increase of geostrophic wind with height (forward shear, FW) and near the surface for a decrease of wind with height (backward shear, BW). Although the total MT always acts as a friction, the interaction of friction-induced cross-isobaric flow with the Coriolis force can develop supergeostrophic winds near the surface (FW) or in the cloud layer (BW). The contribution of convection to MT is evaluated by decomposing the momentum flux by column water vapor and eddy size, revealing that CMT acts to accelerate subcloud layer winds under FW shear and that mesoscale circulations contribute significantly to MT for this horizontal resolution (250 m), even if small-scale eddies are nonnegligible and likely more important as resolution increases. Under FW shear, a deeper boundary layer and faster cloud transition are simulated, because MT acts to increase surface fluxes and wind shear enhances turbulent mixing across cloud tops. Our results show that the coupling between winds and convection is crucial for a range of problems, from CAO lifetime and cloud transitions to ocean heat loss and near-surface wind variability.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2019MS001991
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • cold air outbreak
  • convective momentum transport
  • horizontal wind
  • kinetic energy budget
  • momentum transport
  • wind shear


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