Sensitivity of Monthly Convective Precipitation to Environmental Conditions

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Identifying dynamical and physical mechanisms controlling variability of convective precipitation is critical for predicting intraseasonal and longer-term changes in warm-season precipitation and convectively driven large-scale circulations. On a monthly basis, the relationship of convective instability with precipitation is examined to investigate the modulation of convective instability on precipitation using the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) and NCEP–NCAR reanalysis for 1948–2003. Three convective parameters—convective inhibition (CIN), precipitable water (PW), and convective available potential energy (CAPE)—are examined. A lifted index and a difference between low-tropospheric temperature and surface dewpoint are used as proxies of CAPE and CIN, respectively.

A simple correlation analysis between the convective parameters and the reanalysis precipitation revealed that the most significant convective parameter in the variability of monthly mean precipitation varies by regions and seasons. With respect to region, CIN is tightly coupled with precipitation over summer continents in the Northern Hemisphere and Australia, while PW or CAPE is tightly coupled with precipitation over tropical oceans. With respect to seasons, the identity of the most significant convective parameter tends to be consistent across seasons over the oceans, while it varies by season in Africa and South America. Results from GHCN precipitation data are broadly consistent with reanalysis data where GHCN data exist, except in some tropical areas where correlations are much stronger (and sometimes signed differently) with reanalysis precipitation than with GHCN precipitation.


This article was originally published in Journal of Climate, volume 23, in 2010. DOI: 10.1175/2009JCLI2792.1

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