Contributions of moist convection and internal gravity waves to building the atmospheric -5/3 kinetic energy spectra

Y. Qiang Sun, Richard Rotunno, Fuqing Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


With high-resolution mesoscale model simulations, the authors have confirmed a recent study demonstrating that convective systems, triggered in a horizontally homogeneous environment, are able to generate a background mesoscale kinetic energy spectrum with a slope close to -5/3, which is the observed value for the kinetic energy spectrum at mesoscales. This shallow slope can be identified at almost all height levels from the lower troposphere to the lower stratosphere in the simulations, implying a strong connection between different vertical levels. The present study also computes the spectral kinetic energy budget for these simulations to further analyze the processes associated with the creation of the spectrum. The buoyancy production generated by moist convection, while mainly injecting energy in the upper troposphere at small scales, could also contribute at larger scales, possibly as a result of the organization of convective cells into mesoscale convective systems. This latter injected energy is then transported by energy fluxes (due to gravity waves and/or convection) both upward and downward. Nonlinear interactions, associated with the velocity advection term, finally help build the approximate -5/3 slope through upscale and/or downscale propagation at all levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-201
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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