Articles | Volume 16, issue 15
Research article
11 Aug 2016
Research article |  | 11 Aug 2016

Characteristics of vertical air motion in isolated convective clouds

Jing Yang, Zhien Wang, Andrew J. Heymsfield, and Jeffrey R. French

Abstract. The vertical velocity and air mass flux in isolated convective clouds are statistically analyzed using aircraft in situ data collected from three field campaigns: High-Plains Cumulus (HiCu) conducted over the midlatitude High Plains, COnvective Precipitation Experiment (COPE) conducted in a midlatitude coastal area, and Ice in Clouds Experiment-Tropical (ICE-T) conducted over a tropical ocean. The results show that small-scale updrafts and downdrafts (<  500 m in diameter) are frequently observed in the three field campaigns, and they make important contributions to the total air mass flux. The probability density functions (PDFs) and profiles of the observed vertical velocity are provided. The PDFs are exponentially distributed. The updrafts generally strengthen with height. Relatively strong updrafts (>  20 m s−1) were sampled in COPE and ICE-T. The observed downdrafts are stronger in HiCu and COPE than in ICE-T. The PDFs of the air mass flux are exponentially distributed as well. The observed maximum air mass flux in updrafts is of the order 104 kg m−1 s−1. The observed air mass flux in the downdrafts is typically a few times smaller in magnitude than that in the updrafts. Since this study only deals with isolated convective clouds, and there are many limitations and sampling issues in aircraft in situ measurements, more observations are needed to better explore the vertical air motion in convective clouds.

Short summary
This study provides statistics of the vertical air motion characteristics in convective clouds using aircraft in situ measurements from three field campaigns. Small-scale drafts are frequently observed and make important contributions to total air mass flux. The probability density functions and profiles of the observed vertical velocity and air mass flux are provided. The differences among the three field campaigns are compared. Factors influencing the vertical air motions are discussed.
Final-revised paper