A new metric to help understand Amazon rainforest precipitation

Aug 14, 2013

In the Amazon rainforest, the chain of events that turns a small-scale process like a localized increase in evaporation into a towering storm cloud is long and twisted. To understand the complex dynamics that lead to precipitation, and to identify the relative importance of various processes, researchers need high temporal resolution, all-weather observations over many years. Such observations have traditionally been scarce for tropical continental environments, such as the Amazon, where logistics are difficult.

In recent years, however, Global Navigational Satellite System (GNSS) stations have provided a way to gather these measurements of . In their study, Adams et al. use 3.5 years of observations from a GNSS meteorological station in Manaus, Brazil, to analyze the processes that turn localized dynamics into deep convective rainfall.

To identify which physical processes are most important in contributing to cloud formation, growth, and precipitation, the authors developed a new metric called the "water vapor convergence time scale." Moist air is more buoyant than dry, so understanding water vapor convergence is important to understanding the development of deep convective . Using their metric derived from GNSS water vapor observations, the authors identify two main time scales relevant to Amazon convective .

Starting about 12 hours before precipitation onset, the authors find that localized evaporation is the most likely dominant factor in moistening the atmosphere. Then, about 4 hours before the onset of deep convective precipitation, water vapor convergence becomes dominant. This 4-hour period of strong water vapor convergence before heavy rainfall encompasses the transition from shallow to deep convection. This transition is a process during which small, scattered cumulus clouds grow into deep convective towers. The authors find that this 4-hour shallow-to-deep convection transition time scale is not dependent on the season, the intensity of the convective precipitation, or the time of day.

Explore further: Measuring isotope variability in water vapor over Southern California

More information: GNSS Observations of Deep Convective Time Scales in the Amazon, Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1002/grl.50573, 2013 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50573/abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Oxygen isotopes improve weather predictability in Niger

May 17, 2012

For the African nation of Niger, the effect of seasonal atmospheric variability on the weather is poorly understood. Because most residents rely on local agriculture, improving the predictability of seasonal weather and precipitation ...

Recommended for you

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

15 hours ago

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.