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Department of Atmospheric Science

Mon., Mar. 5, 3:10 pm, EN6085

Modeling and observing convective cloud dynamicsine 

Dr. John Peters

Naval Postgraduate School


My research has improved our understanding of the dynamics of heavy-rain producing mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) through a combined analysis of numerical simulations and in situ observations. As an example, I will briefly summarize a study that used observations from the Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN) field experiment. This study showed that small moisture errors in models can result in large displacement errors within numerical weather prediction model forecasts of MCS placement.

My current and future research aims to improve our understanding of the fundamental dynamics of cumulus clouds, with the broader goal of improving cumulus parameterizations (CPs). Recent research suggests that deep convective clouds are comprised of a series of turbulent bubbles of buoyant air, which contrasts with the traditional view of convective clouds as plumes. I will review the dynamics of moist convective thermals and highlight the deficiencies in our scientific understanding of these phenomena. For instance, drag associated with vertical pressure gradient forces substantially regulates the ascent rate of thermals. My long term research goals aim to understand the environmental dependencies of this drag in order to include this process in CPs. As an example, I show the results from as series of numerical experiments that show that vertical wind shear substantially increases drag on thermals.

High resolution in-situ observations of thermals in deep convection are substantially lacking in the scientific literature. In particular, little is understood about the typical sizes and circulations of deep convective thermals in nature. I will describe a potential field experiment that will probe the internal structure of deep tropical cumulus to address the aforementioned knowledge gap. This experiment will use airborne radar, instrumentation, and surface-based measurements to observe thermals’ dynamics, near environment, and microphysical properties.

Contact Us

University of Wyoming,

Atmospheric Science,

EN 6034

Dept. 3038

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307)766-3245


1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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