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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Boundary Layer Diabatic Processes, the Virtual Effect, and Convective Self-Aggregation


The atmosphere can self-organize into long-lasting large-scale overturning circulations over an ocean surface with uniform temperature. This phenomenon is referred to as convective self-aggregation and has been argued to be important for tropical weather and climate systems. Here we present a boundary layer centric framework based on the available potential energy budget of convective self-aggregation. We show that boundary layer diabatic processes dominate the available potential energy production and are, therefore, essential to convective self-aggregation. We further show that the enhanced virtual effect of water vapor can lead to convective self-aggregation.

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