Cloud-spacing effects upon entrainment and rainfall along a convective line

Daniel H. Moser, Sonia Lasher-Trapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cumulus clouds modify their immediate surroundings by detraining their warm, humid updrafts. When clouds are closely spaced, this conditioning of the local environment may alter the properties of the air entrained by neighboring clouds and slow their dilution. This effect has not been quantified, nor has its importance been determined for influencing the amount of convective rainfall from a system of neighboring clouds. Here, a series of idealized numerical simulations, which are based on an observed line of precipitating cumulus congestus clouds, is performed using increasingly smaller cloud spacing to investigate how cloud proximity may alter entrainment, cloud development, and convective rainfall. For clouds of radius R, which is approximately 1 km in these simulations, distances between updraft centers from 4R through 9R are tested. Over this range, the initial clouds all exhibit negligible differences in the directly calculated entrainment rates and in the thermodynamic characteristics of the entrained air. Instead, for cloud separation distances of less than 6R, the subcloud inflow is increasingly disturbed, limiting initial cloud depths and slowing updraft speeds and precipitation onset. Ultimately, however, these same cases produce a new generation of clouds that are stronger and produce more rainfall than for all other cases. The smaller cloud separation distance allows precipitation outflows from the initial clouds to meet and force new, stronger cloud updrafts. For this second generation of clouds, their entrained air is slightly more humid, but the stronger updrafts and ingestion of residual ice and precipitation from earlier clouds appear to be most important for enhancing their rainfall.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1865-1882
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Convection
  • Convection lines
  • Entrainment
  • Mixing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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