Mesoscale Circulations and Organized Convection in African Easterly Waves

Global convection-permitting model simulations and remote sensing observations are used to investigate the interaction between organized convection, both moist and dry, and the atmospheric circulation in the case of an African easterly wave (AEW). The wave disturbance is associated with a quadrupole structure of divergence, with two convergence centers slightly ahead of the trough. Moisture transport from southeast of the trough to the area in front and lower midtropospheric moisture convergence precondition and organize convection. The main inflow into the squall-line cluster is from behind. The moisture-abundant inflow collides at the low level with monsoon air with high moist static energy and establishes a frontal line of updrafts at the leading edge of the propagating mesoscale convective system. A mantle of moisture surrounds the convective core. A potential vorticity budget analysis reveals that convective latent heating is driving the evolution of the wave but not in a quasi-steady way. The wave propagation includes a succession of convective bursts and subsequent dynamic adjustment processes. Dry convection associated with the Saharan air layer (SAL) and SAL intrusions into the wave trough together with vorticity advection can play a role in intensifying AEWs dynamically as they move from the West African coast across the Atlantic Ocean. Our analysis demonstrates that the synoptic-scale wave and convection are interlinked through mesoscale circulations on a continuum of scales. This implies that the relation between organized convection and the atmospheric circulation is intrinsically dynamic, which poses a particular challenge to subgrid convection parameterizations in numerical models.

The journal article can be found here.