A statistical analysis of the influence of deep convection on water vapor variability in the tropical upper troposphere
1Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
2Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA
3National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA
Abstract. The factors that control the influence of deep convective detrainment on water vapor in the tropical upper troposphere are examined using observations from multiple satellites in conjunction with a trajectory model. Deep convection is confirmed to act primarily as a moisture source to the upper troposphere, modulated by the ambient relative humidity (RH). Convective detrainment provides strong moistening at low RH and offsets drying due to subsidence across a wide range of RH. Strong day-to-day moistening and drying takes place most frequently in relatively dry transition zones, where between 0.01% and 0.1% of Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Precipitation Radar observations indicate active convection. Many of these strong moistening events in the tropics can be directly attributed to detrainment from recent tropical convection, while others in the subtropics appear to be related to stratosphere-troposphere exchange. The temporal and spatial limits of the convective source are estimated to be about 36–48 h and 600–1500 km, respectively, consistent with the lifetimes of detrainment cirrus clouds. Larger amounts of detrained ice are associated with enhanced upper tropospheric moistening in both absolute and relative terms. In particular, an increase in ice water content of approximately 400% corresponds to a 10–90% increase in the likelihood of moistening and a 30–50% increase in the magnitude of moistening.