The role of shallow convection in the momentum budget of the trades from large-eddy-simulation hindcasts

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Abstract

Motivated by the abundance of low clouds in the subtropics, where the easterly trade winds prevail, we study the role of shallow convection in the momentum budget of the trades. To this end, we use ICON-LEM hindcasts run over the North Atlantic for 12 days corresponding to the NARVAL1 (winter) and NARVAL2 (summer) flight campaigns. The simulation protocol consists of several nested domains, and we focus on the inner domains (≈100 × 100 km2) which have been run at resolutions of 150–600 m and are forced by analysis data, thus exhibiting realistic conditions. Combined, the resolved advection and the subgrid stresses decelerate the easterly flow over a frictional layer that balances the prevailing geostrophic wind forcing. Irrespective of the horizontal resolution, this layer is about 2 km deep in the strong winter trades and 1 km in summer, as winds and geostrophic forcing weaken and cloudiness reduces. The unresolved processes are strongest near the surface and are well captured by traditional K-diffusion theory, but convective-scale motions which are not considered in K-diffusion theory contribute the most in the upper part of the mixed layer and are strongest just below cloud base. The results point out that convection in the mixed layer – the roots of trade-wind cumuli and subcloud-layer circulations – play an important role in slowing down easterly flow below cloud base (but little in the cloud layer itself), which helps make the zonal wind jet more distinct. Most of the friction within the clouds and near the wind jet stems from smaller-scale turbulence stresses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2490-2505
Number of pages16
JournalQuarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
Volume147
Issue number737
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • convective momentum transport
  • K-diffusion
  • large-eddy simulation
  • momentum budget
  • shallow convection
  • trade winds

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