Articles | Volume 17, issue 7
Research article
07 Apr 2017
Research article |  | 07 Apr 2017

Modes of vertical thermodynamic and wind variability over the Maritime Continent

Jennie Bukowski, Derek J. Posselt, Jeffrey S. Reid, and Samuel A. Atwood

Abstract. The Maritime Continent (MC) is an exceedingly complex region from the perspective of both its meteorology and its aerosol characteristics. Convection in the MC is ubiquitous and assumes a wide variety of forms under the influence of an evolving large-scale dynamic and thermodynamic context. Understanding the interaction between convective systems and their environment, both individually and in the aggregate, requires knowledge of the dominant patterns of spatial and temporal variability. Ongoing cloud model ensemble studies require realistic perturbations to the atmospheric thermodynamic state to devise system sensitivities. Apart from modeling studies, evanescent signals in the tropical system are obscured by the underlying broad-scale meteorological variability, which if constrained could illuminate fine-scale physical processes.

To this end, radiosonde observations from 2008 to 2016 are examined from three upper-air sounding sites within the MC for the purpose of exploring the dominant vertical temperature, humidity, and wind structures in the region. Principal component analysis is applied to the vertical atmospheric column to transform patterns present in radiosonde data into canonical thermodynamic and wind profiles for the MC. Both rotated and non-rotated principal components are considered, and the emerging structure functions reflect the fundamental vertical modes of short-term tropical variability. The results indicate that while there is tremendous spatial and temporal variability across the MC, the primary modes of vertical thermodynamic and wind variability in the region can be represented in a lower-dimensional subspace. In addition, the vertical structures are very similar among different sites around the region, though different structures may manifest more strongly at one location than another. The results indicate that, while different meteorology may be found in various parts of the MC at any given time, the processes themselves are remarkably consistent. The ability to represent this variability using a limited number of structure functions facilitates analysis of covariability between atmospheric structure and convective systems and also enables future systematic model-based ensemble analysis of cloud development, convection, and precipitation over the MC.

Short summary
The Maritime Continent (MC) exhibits tremendous meteorological variability. In this study, multiple years of atmospheric soundings over the MC are analyzed to identify key sources of variability in the region's temperature, water vapor, and wind structure. Coherent vertical structures are found among profiles sampled from different geographic locations. The results indicate that the complex meteorology of the region can be described using a few simple structure functions.
Final-revised paper