Environmental distinctions between cellular and slabular convective lines

Richard P. James, J. Michael Fritsch, Paul M. Markowski

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48 Scopus citations


The organizational mode of quasi-linear convective systems often falls within a spectrum of modes described by a line of discrete cells on one end ("cellular") and an unbroken two-dimensional swath of ascent on the other ("slabular").Convective events exhibiting distinctly cellular or slabular characteristics over the continental United States were compiled, and composite soundings of the respective inflow environments were constructed. The most notable difference between the environments of slabs and cells occurred in the wind profiles; lines organized as slabs existed in much stronger low-level line-relative inflow and stronger low-level shear. A compressible model with high res olution (Δx = 500 m) was used to investigate the effects of varying environmental conditions on the nature of the convective overturning. The numerical results show that highly cellular convective lines are favored when the environmental conditions and initiation procedure allow the convectively generated cold pools to remain separate from one another. The transition to a continuous along-line cold pool and gust front leads to the generation of a more "solid" line of convection, as dynamic pressure forcing above the downshear edge of the cold outflow creates a swath of quasi-twodimensional ascent. Using both full-physics simulations and a simplified cold-pool model, it is demonstrated that the magnitude of the two-dimensional ascent in slabular convective systems is closely related to the integrated cold-pool strength. It is concluded that slabular org anization tends to occur under conditions that favor the development of a strong, contiguous cold pool. The tendency to produce slabular convection is therefore enhanced by environmental conditions such as large CAPE, weak convective inhibition, strong along-line winds, and moderately strong cross-line wind shear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2669-2691
Number of pages23
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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