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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 13, issue 5
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 2757–2777, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 2757–2777, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 08 Mar 2013

Research article | 08 Mar 2013

Cloud-resolving chemistry simulation of a Hector thunderstorm

K. A. Cummings1, T. L. Huntemann1,*, K. E. Pickering2, M. C. Barth3, W. C. Skamarock3, H. Höller4, H.-D. Betz5, A. Volz-Thomas6, and H. Schlager4 K. A. Cummings et al.
  • 1Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
  • 2Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
  • 3NCAR Earth System Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 4Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
  • 5Department of Physics, University of Munich, Munich, Germany
  • 6Institut für Chemie- und Klimaforschung, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Jülich, Germany
  • *now at: National Weather Service, Silver Spring, MD, USA

Abstract. Cloud chemistry simulations were performed for a Hector thunderstorm observed on 16 November 2005 during the SCOUT-O3/ACTIVE campaigns based in Darwin, Australia, with the primary objective of estimating the average NO production per lightning flash in this unique storm type which occurred in a tropical island environment. The 3-D WRF-Aqueous Chemistry (WRF-AqChem) model is used for these calculations and contains the WRF nonhydrostatic cloud-resolving model with online gas- and aqueous-phase chemistry and a lightning-NOx (LNOx) production algorithm. The model was initialized by inducing convection with an idealized morning sounding and sensible heat source, and initial condition chemical profiles from merged aircraft observations in undisturbed air. Many features of the idealized model storm, such as storm size and peak radar reflectivity, were similar to the observed storm. Tracer species, such as CO, used to evaluate convective transport in the simulated storm found vertical motion from the boundary layer to the anvil region was well represented in the model, with a small overestimate of enhanced CO at anvil altitudes. The lightning detection network (LINET) provided lightning flash data for the model and a lightning placement scheme injected the resulting NO into the simulated cloud. A lightning NO production scenario of 500 moles flash−1 for both CG and IC flashes yielded anvil NOx mixing ratios that compared well with aircraft observations and were also similar to those deduced for several convective modeling analyses in the midlatitudes and subtropics. However, these NO production values were larger than most estimates for tropical thunderstorms and given several uncertainties, LNOx production may have been as large as 600 moles flash−1. Approximately 85% of the simulated LNOx mass was located above 7 km in the later stages of the storm, which was greater than amounts found for subtropical and midlatitude convection. Modeled upper tropospheric NO2 partial columns were also considerably greater than most satellite observations of tropical marine convective events, as tropical island convection, such as Hector, is more vigorous and more productive of LNOx. Additional research is needed to investigate whether LNOx production per flash increases in storms with greater wind shear, such as this Hector storm, which showed significant variation in wind direction with altitude.

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