The Convective Instability Pathway to Warm Season Drought in Texas. Part I: The Role of Convective Inhibition and Its Modulation by Soil Moisture

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This research is designed to investigate how convective instability influences monthly mean precipitation in Texas in the summertime and to examine the modulation of convective instability and precipitation by local and regional forcings. Since drought results from the accumulated effects of deficient precipitation over time, this study is expected to shed light on the physical and dynamical mechanisms of the initiation and maintenance of serious droughts as well. The focus in Part I of this two-part study is on identification of the controlling convective parameters and, in turn, the surface-based processes that cause variations in these parameters. NCEP–NCAR reanalysis data and observed precipitation data, correlation analysis, multiple linear regression analysis, and back-trajectory analysis are used to reveal the underlying dynamics of their linkage and causality.

Monthly mean precipitation is modified mainly by convective inhibition (CIN) rather than by convective available potential energy (CAPE) or by precipitable water. Excessive CIN is caused by surface dryness and warming at 700 hPa, leading to precipitation deficits on a monthly time scale. While the dewpoint temperature and thermodynamics at the surface are greatly affected by the soil moisture, the temperature at 700 hPa was found to be statistically independent of the surface dewpoint temperature since the 700-hPa temperature represents free-atmospheric processes. (These free-atmospheric processes are the focus of the companion paper.) Finally, the strong correlations among precipitation, soil moisture, and CIN, as well as their underlying physical processes, suggest that the tight linkage between precipitation and soil moisture is not only due to the impacts of precipitation on soil moisture but also to the feedbacks of soil moisture on precipitation by controlling CIN.


This article was originally published in Journal of Climate, volume 23, in 2010. DOI: 10.1175/2010JCLI2946.1

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