Observations from the Convective Storm Initiation Project (CSIP) show that on 29 June 2005 (Intensive Observation Period 5) cirrus patches left over from previous thunderstorms reduced surface sensible and latent heat fluxes in the CSIP area. Large-eddy model (LEM) simulations, using moving positive surface-flux anomalies, show that we expect the observed moving gaps in the cirrus cover to significantly aid convective initiation. In these simulations, the timing of the CI is largely determined by the amount of heat added to the boundary layer, but weak convergence at the rear edge of the moving anomalies is also significant.
Meteosat and rain-radar data are combined to determine the position of convective initiation for all 25 trackable showers in the CSIP area. The results are consistent with the LEM simulations, with showers initiating at the rear edge of gaps, at the leading edge of the anvil, or in clear skies, in all but one of the cases. The initiation occurs in relatively clear skies in all but two of the cases, with the exceptions probably linked to orographic effects.
For numerical weather prediction, the case highlights the importance of predicting and assimilating cloud cover. The results show that in the absence of stronger forcings, weak forcings, such as from the observed cirrus shading, can determine the precise location and timing of convective initiation. In such cases, since the effects of shading by cirrus anvils from previous convective storms are relatively unpredictable, this is expected to limit the predictability of the convective initiation. Copyright © 2007 Royal Meteorological Society