A numerical simulation study of the effects of anvil shading on quasi-linear convective systems

Andrew J. Oberthaler, Paul M. Markowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Numerical simulations are used to investigate how the attenuation of solar radiation by the intervening cumulonimbus cloud, particularly its large anvil, affects the structure, intensity, and evolution of quasi-linear convective systems and the sensitivity of the effects of this "anvil shading" to the ambient wind profile. Shading of the pre-gust-front inflow environment (as opposed to shading of the cold pool) has the most important impact on the convective systems. The magnitude of the low-level cooling, associated baroclinicity, and stabilization of the pre-gust-front environment due to anvil shading generally increases as the duration of the shading increases. Thus, for a given leading anvil length, a slow-moving convective system tends to be affected more by anvil shading than does a fast-moving convective system. Differences in the forward speeds of the convective systems simulated in this study are largely attributable to differences in the mean environmental wind speed over the depth of the troposphere. Anvil shading reduces the buoyancy realized by the air parcels that ascend through the updrafts. As a result, anvil shading contributes to weaker updrafts relative to control simulations in which clouds are transparent to solar radiation. Anvil shading also affects the convective systems by modifying the low-level (nominally 0-2.5 kmAGL) verticalwind shear in the pre-gust-front environment.The shear modifications affect the slope of the updraft region and system-relative rear-to-front flow, and the sign of the modifications is sensitive to the ground-relative vertical wind profile in the far-field environment. The vertical wind shear changes are brought about by baroclinic vorticity generation associated with the horizontal buoyancy gradient that develops in the shaded boundary layer (which makes the pre-gust-front, low-level vertical wind shear less westerly) and by a reduction of the vertical mixing of momentum due to the near-surface (nominally 0-300 m AGL) stabilization that accompanies the shading-induced cooling. The reduced mixing makes the pre-gust-front, low-level vertical shear more (less) westerly if the ambient, near-surface wind and wind shear are westerly (easterly).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)767-793
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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