Airborne lidar observations in the inflow region of a warm conveyor belt



Warm conveyor belts (WCBs) are key flow structures associated with extratropical cyclones. They transport moist air from the cyclone's warm sector poleward and upward close to the tropopause level, leading to the formation of elongated cloud bands, intense latent heating and surface precipitation. In this study a comprehensive dataset of airborne lidar observations of moisture and wind from different campaigns has been investigated with a trajectory-based approach to identify ‘lucky encounters’ with WCBs. On 19 July 2007, an upstream flight over the Iberian Peninsula during the European THORPEX Regional Campaign (ETReC 2007) in Central Europe intersected two WCBs: one in the upper tropospheric outflow region about 3 days after starting the ascent, and the other one in the boundary layer inflow region over Spain just prior to the strong ascent. Comparison of the lidar humidity measurements with analysis fields from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) reveals significant positive deviations, equivalent to an overestimation of the modelled humidity, in this low-tropospheric WCB inflow region (of about 1 g kg−1 (14%) on average and with peak deviations up to 7 g kg−1). It is noteworthy that this substantial bias occurs in a potentially dynamically highly relevant air mass that will be subsequently lifted within a WCB to the upper troposphere. A Lagrangian moisture source diagnostic reveals that these large moisture deviations occur within air masses that, according to the ECMWF analyses, are coherently transported from the western Mediterranean towards Spain and experience intense moisture uptake over the Ebro valley. It is suggested that inaccuracies in surface evapotranspiration, horizontal moisture advection, and turbulent vertical transport of moisture in the atmospheric boundary layer potentially contribute to the erroneous low-tropospheric humidity in the inflow region of this particular summertime WCB over Spain in the ECMWF analyses. Copyright © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society