Articles | Volume 16, issue 2
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 541–560, 2016
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 541–560, 2016

Research article 19 Jan 2016

Research article | 19 Jan 2016

The tropopause inversion layer in baroclinic life-cycle experiments: the role of diabatic processes

D. Kunkel, P. Hoor, and V. Wirth D. Kunkel et al.
  • Institute for Atmospheric Physics, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Mainz, Germany

Abstract. Recent studies on the formation of a quasi-permanent layer of enhanced static stability above the thermal tropopause revealed the contributions of dynamical and radiative processes. Dry dynamics leads to the evolution of a tropopause inversion layer (TIL), which is, however, too weak compared to observations and thus diabatic contributions are required. In this study we aim to assess the importance of diabatic processes in the understanding of TIL formation at midlatitudes. The non-hydrostatic model COSMO (COnsortium for Small-scale MOdelling) is applied in an idealized midlatitude channel configuration to simulate baroclinic life cycles. The effect of individual diabatic processes related to humidity, radiation, and turbulence is studied first to estimate the contribution of each of these processes to the TIL formation in addition to dry dynamics. In a second step these processes are stepwise included in the model to increase the complexity and finally estimate the relative importance of each process. The results suggest that including turbulence leads to a weaker TIL than in a dry reference simulation. In contrast, the TIL evolves stronger when radiation is included but the temporal evolution is still comparable to the reference. Using various cloud schemes in the model shows that latent heat release and consecutive increased vertical motions foster an earlier and stronger appearance of the TIL than in all other life cycles. Furthermore, updrafts moisten the upper troposphere and as such increase the radiative effect from water vapor. Particularly, this process becomes more relevant for maintaining the TIL during later stages of the life cycles. Increased convergence of the vertical wind induced by updrafts and by propagating inertia-gravity waves, which potentially dissipate, further contributes to the enhanced stability of the lower stratosphere. Finally, radiative feedback of ice clouds reaching up to the tropopause is identified to potentially further affect the strength of the TIL in the region of the clouds.

Short summary
By conducting various simulations of dry and moist baroclinic life cycles, we aimed to improve the understanding of whether dynamical or diabatic processes are more relevant to form a tropopause inversion layer at midlatitudes. Most importantly, our experiments highlighted the role of different moisture related processes for the formation and evolution of the tropopause inversion layer with varying relevance and strength in different phases of the baroclinic life cycles.
Final-revised paper