Simultaneous characterization of mesoscale and convective-scale tropical rainfall extremes and their dynamical and thermodynamic modes of change
Published Web Locationhttps://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2017MS001033
The Superparameterized Community Atmosphere Model (SPCAM) is used to identify the dynamical and organizational properties of tropical extreme rainfall events on two scales. We compare the mesoscales resolved by General Circulation Models (GCMs) and the convective scales resolved by Cloud-Resolving Models (CRMs) to reassess and extend on previous results from GCMs and CRMs in radiative-convective equilibrium. We first show that the improved representation of subgridscale dynamics in SPCAM allows for a close agreement with the 7%/K Clausius-Clapeyron rate of increase in mesoscale extremes rainfall rates. Three contributions to changes in extremes are quantified and appear consistent in sign and relative magnitude with previous results. On mesoscales, the thermodynamic contribution (5.8%/K) and the contribution from mass flux increases (2%/K) enhance precipitation rates, while the upward displacement of the mass flux profile (-1.1%/K) offsets this increase. Convective-scale extremes behave similarly except that changes in mass flux are negligible due to a balance between greater numbers of strong updrafts and downdrafts and lesser numbers of weak updrafts. Extremes defined on these two scales behave as two independent sets of rainfall events, with different dynamics, geometries, and responses to climate change. In particular, dynamic changes in mesoscale extremes appear primarily sensitive to changes in the large-scale mass flux, while the intensity of convective-scale extremes is not. In particular, the increases in mesoscale mass flux directly contribute to the intensification of mesoscale extreme rain, but do not seem to affect the increase in convective-scale rainfall intensities. These results motivate the need for better understanding the role of the large-scale forcing on the formation and intensification of heavy convective rainfall.