EGU21-3401, updated on 03 Mar 2021
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Miniature tropics and bi-diurnal oscillations

Jan O. Haerter1,2,3, Gorm Gruner Jensen3, and Romain Fiévet3
Jan O. Haerter et al.
  • 1Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research, Bremen, Germany (
  • 2Jacobs University Bremen, Bremen, Germany
  • 3Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Convective self-aggregation is a well-studied atmospheric state, obtained in typically multi-week idealized numerical experiments, where boundary conditions are constant and spatially homogeneous. As radiative convective equilibrium is approached, the atmosphere develops a heavily precipitating moist patch, which is surrounded by subsiding, cloud-free regions. It was recently shown that a homogeneous, but temporally oscillating surface temperature can quickly lead to the emergence of so-called mesoscale convective systems (MCS, diameters of >100 km) - on temporal scales of only a few days. Furthermore, the patterns formed by these MCS remind of checkerboards, and alternate from day to day [1]. 

We here extend this finding further, to add realism to the otherwise preserved idealization: Mimicking a form of “miniature tropics” we retain a laterally periodic domain (Lx, Ly), but impose spatial variation in mean surface temperature along one dimension - reminiscent of a meridional reduction in mean surface temperature, when moving poleward from the equator. By making the wavelength of spatial variation commensurate with domain size, we retail double-periodic lateral boundary conditions. When the diurnal cycle is set to zero, the system quickly organizes to a forcefully aggregated caricature of the actual tropics - with heavy convection near the equator and pronounced subsidence and enhanced long-wave cooling in the subtropics. When the diurnal cycle is increased, bi-diurnal temporal oscillations appear, which lead to a single precipitation peak centered on the equator on one day, but a bimodal meridional pattern with precipitation away from the equator on the next.

Our findings, obtained for a still idealized numerical experiment, may have implications for “edge intensifications” suggested from observations and numerical modeling of tropical precipitation patterns near the ITCZ [2,3].

[1] Haerter, J.O., Meyer, B. & Nissen, S.B. Diurnal self-aggregation. npj Clim Atmos Sci 3, 30 (2020).

[2] Mapes, B. E., E.-S. Chung, W. M. Hannah, H. Masunaga, A. J. Wimmers and C. S. Velden, 2018: The meandering margin of the meteorological moist Tropics, Geophys. Res. Lett., 45, 1177-1184. doi:10.1002/2017GL076440

[3] Windmiller, J. M., & Hohenegger, C. 2019: Convection on the edge. J. Adv. Model. Earth Syst., 11, 3959-3972, 10.1029/2019MS001820

How to cite: Haerter, J. O., Jensen, G. G., and Fiévet, R.: Miniature tropics and bi-diurnal oscillations, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-3401,, 2021.

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