Triggering deep convection with a probabilistic plume model

Fabio D'Andrea, Pierre Gentine, Alan K. Betts, Benjamin R. Lintner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Amodel unifying the representation of the planetary boundary layer and dry, shallow, and deep convection, the probabilistic plume model (PPM), is presented. Its capacity to reproduce the triggering of deep convection over land is analyzed in detail. The model accurately reproduces the timing of shallow convection and of deep convection onset over land, which is a major issue in many current general climate models. PPM is based on a distribution of plumes with varying thermodynamic states (potential temperature and specific humidity) induced by surface-layer turbulence. Precipitation is computed by a simple ice microphysics, and with the onset of precipitation, downdrafts are initiated and lateral entrainment of environmental air into updrafts is reduced. The most buoyant updrafts are responsible for the triggering of moist convection, causing the rapid growth of clouds and precipitation. Organization of turbulence in the subcloud layer is induced by unsaturated downdrafts, and the effect of density currents is modeled through a reduction of the lateral entrainment. The reduction of entrainment induces further development from the precipitating congestus phase to full deep cumulonimbus. Model validation is performed by comparing cloud base, cloud-top heights, timing of precipitation, and environmental profiles against cloud-resolving models and large-eddy simulations for two test cases. These comparisons demonstrate that PPM triggers deep convection at the proper time in the diurnal cycle and produces reasonable precipitation. On the other hand, PPM underestimates cloud-top height.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3881-3901
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Boundary layer
  • Convective clouds
  • Convective parameterization
  • Deep convection
  • Turbulence


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