Convective mixing in a tropopause fold

H. J. Reid, G. Vaughan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    We present a case study of the passage of a tropopause fold over the UK behind a cold front, with emphasis on the mixing caused by convection extending into the fold. The event took place on 15-16 January 1999, and was the subject of intensive observations using the Met Office C130 aircraft and the mesosphere-stratosphere-troposphere (MST) radar at Aberystwyth. Here we concentrate on radar and satellite observations during the afternoon of 16 January, when the surface cold front had passed over the UK. A tongue of moist air moved northeastwards over Wales at 700 hPa at this time, which, because of the very dry air in the fold above, resulted in potential instability. The resulting convection was clearly observed in NOAA satellite images. The MST radar depicted the passage of the cold front and tropopause fold as a layer of high-echo power and vertical wind shear ascending with time. Spectral widths showed the fold to be free of turbulence until 1200 UTC on 16 January, when convection was observed reaching into the frontal zone and generating turbulence. Eddy dissipation and diffusivity rates of 8.6 mW kg-1 and 8.5 m2s-1, respectively, were derived for this event. To place these figures in context, they are compared with corresponding rates derived for sixteen other passages of tropopause folds over the radar, each resulting from shear rather than convective instability. The convective event is found to be comparable to the strongest shear events, and to correspond to moderate turbulence as experienced by an aircraft. This process is of potential importance for atmospheric chemistry because it mixes boundary layer air directly with stratospheric air over a timescale of 1-2 hours. © Royal Meteorological Society, 2004.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1195-1212
    Number of pages17
    JournalQuarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
    Volume130
    Issue number599
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2004

    Keywords

    • Cold front
    • MST radar
    • Turbulence

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