Dynamics of cloud-top generating cells in winter cyclones. Part III: Shear and convective organization

Jason M. Keeler, Robert M. Rauber, Brian F. Jewett, Greg M. Mcfarquhar, Roy M. Rasmussen, Lulin Xue, Changhai Liu, Gregory Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cloud-top generating cells (GCs) are a common feature atop stratiform clouds within the comma head of winter cyclones. The dynamics of cloud-top GCs are investigated using very high-resolution idealized WRF Model simulations to examine the role of shear in modulating the structure and intensity of GCs. Simulations were run for the same combinations of radiative forcing and instability as in Part II of this series, but with six different shear profiles ranging from 0 to 10 m s-1 km-1 within the layer encompassing the GCs. The primary role of shear was to modulate the organization of GCs, which organized as closed convective cells in simulations with radiative forcing and no shear. In simulations with shear and radiative forcing, GCs organized in linear streets parallel to the wind. No GCs developed in the initially stable simulations with no radiative forcing. In the initially unstable and neutral simulations with no radiative forcing or shear, GCs were exceptionally weak, with no clear organization. In moderate-shear (Δu/Δz = 2, 4 m s-1 km-1) simulations with no radiative forcing, linear organization of the weak cells was apparent, but this organization was less coherent in simulations with high shear (Δu/Δz = 6, 8, 10 m s-1 km-1). The intensity of the updrafts was primarily related to the mode of radiative forcing but was modulated by shear. The more intense GCs in nighttime simulations were either associated with no shear (closed convective cells) or strong shear (linear streets). Updrafts within GCs under conditions with radiative forcing were typically ~1-2 m s-1 with maximum values < 4 m s-1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2879-2897
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Cloud radiative effects
  • Convective-scale processes
  • Extratropical cyclones
  • Snow
  • Stability
  • Wind shear

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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