WRF nested large-eddy simulations of deep convection during SEAC4RS

Heath, N. K., H. Fuelberg, S. Tanelli, J. Turk, P. Lawson, S. Woods, and S. Freeman (2017), WRF nested large-eddy simulations of deep convection during SEAC4RS, J. Geophys. Res., 122, 3953-3974, doi:10.1002/2016JD025465.

Large-eddy simulations (LES) and observations are often combined to increase our understanding and improve the simulation of deep convection. This study evaluates a nested LES method that uses the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model and, specifically, tests whether the nested LES approach is useful for studying deep convection during a real-world case. The method was applied on 2 September 2013, a day of continental convection that occurred during the Studies of Emissions and Atmospheric Composition, Clouds and Climate Coupling by Regional Surveys (SEAC4RS) campaign. Mesoscale WRF output (1.35 km grid length) was used to drive a nested LES with 450 m grid spacing, which then drove a 150 m domain. Results reveal that the 450 m nested LES reasonably simulates observed reflectivity distributions and aircraft-observed in-cloud vertical velocities during the study period. However, when examining convective updrafts, reducing the grid spacing to 150 m worsened results. We find that the simulated updrafts in the 150 m run become too diluted by entrainment, thereby generating updrafts that are weaker than observed. Lastly, the 450 m simulation is combined with observations to study the processes forcing strong midlevel cloud/updraft edge downdrafts that were observed on 2 September. Results suggest that these strong downdrafts are forced by evaporative cooling due to mixing and by perturbation pressure forces acting to restore mass continuity around neighboring updrafts. We conclude that the WRF nested LES approach, with further development and evaluation, could potentially provide an effective method for studying deep convection in real-world cases.

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Research Program: 
Tropospheric Composition Program (TCP)
Funding Sources: 
NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship Program grant NNX13AM09H.