Observation of convection initiation processes with a suite of state-of-the-art research instruments during COPS IOP 8b



In the afternoon of 15 July 2007, a thunderstorm was initiated within a line of cumulus clouds which formed parallel to the crest of the Black Forest mountains during the Intensive Observation Period (IOP) 8b of the Convective and Orographically-induced Precipitation Study (COPS). This paper extends the analysis of processes that led to convection initiation (CI), i.e. the transition from shallow to deep convection, on this day with the data from several COPS instruments that have not been considered in previous studies. In particular, the boundary-layer structure, lids and the water-vapour field in the pre-convective environment of the event are discussed. For this purpose, we investigated measurements of water-vapour lidars, temperature lidars and wind lidars, profiles from radiosondes, in situ aircraft data and gridded data of weather stations as well as GPS integrated-water-vapour data and satellite imagery. Thermally driven circulation systems formed over both the Black Forest and the Vosges mountain ranges which resulted in local convergence zones. These superimposed with the large-scale convergence in the Black Forest area. In the presence of sufficient moisture and updraught, clouds formed close to the mountain crests. The related latent-heat release allowed larger thermals to be produced, which may have had a positive feedback on stabilizing these convergence zones as a whole. We believe that differences in the moisture field explain why convection remained shallow and sparse over the Vosges mountains because these differences were responsible for differences in convective inhibition (CIN). The stationary location of the convergence zone over the southern Black Forest was probably decisive for CI because it constantly transported sensible and latent heat into the area in which CI took place. Copyright © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society