Composite vertical structure of vertical velocity in nonprecipitating cumulus clouds

Yonggang Wang, Bart Geerts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Vertical transects of Doppler vertical velocity data, obtained from an airborne profiling millimeter-wave cloud radar, are composited for a large number of cumulus clouds (Cu) at various stages of their life cycle, to examine typical circulations patterns. The Cu clouds range in depth between ;500 and 6000 m and are generally nonprecipitating. They were sampled on board the University of Wyoming King Air over a mountain in southern Arizona during the summer monsoon, and over the high plains of southeastern Wyoming. The composite analysis shows clear evidence of an updraft/downdraft dipole in the upper cloud half, consistent with a horizontal vortex ring. A single cloud-scale toroidal circulation emerges notwithstanding the complex finescale structure with multiple vortices, commonly evident in individual transects of Cu clouds. The stratification of all Cu samples as a function of their buoyancy and mean vertical velocity shows that the vortex ring pattern tends to be more pronounced in positively buoyant Cu with rising motion (presumably young clouds) than in negatively buoyant and/or sinking Cu near the end of their life cycle. Yet no reverse vortex ring is observed in the latter Cu, suggesting that the decaying phase is short lived in these dry environments. The vortex-ring circulation pattern is more intense in the shallower Cu, which are also more buoyant and have a liquid water content closer to adiabatic values. Wind shear tends to tilt Cu clouds and their vortex ring, resulting in a broadening of the upshear updraft and downshear downdraft.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1673-1692
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013


Dive into the research topics of 'Composite vertical structure of vertical velocity in nonprecipitating cumulus clouds'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this