Orogenic Convection in Subtropical South America as Seen by the TRMM Satellite

Rasmussen, K. L., and R. Houze (2011), Orogenic Convection in Subtropical South America as Seen by the TRMM Satellite, Mon. Wea. Rev., 139, 2399-2420, doi:10.1175/MWR-D-10-05006.1.

Extreme orogenic convective storms in southeastern South America are divided into three categories: storms with deep convective cores, storms with wide convective cores, and storms containing broad stratiform regions. Data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite’s Precipitation Radar show that storms with wide convective cores are the most frequent, tending to originate near the Sierra de Cordoba range. Downslope flow at upper levels caps a nocturnally enhanced low-level jet, thus preventing convection from breaking out until the jet hits a steep slope of terrain, such as the Sierra de Cordoba Mountains or Andean foothills, so that the moist low-level air is lifted enough to release the instability and overcome the cap. This capping and triggering is similar to the way intense convection is released near the northwestern Himalayas. However, the intense storms with wide convective cores over southeastern South America are unlike their Himalayan counterparts in that they exhibit leading-line/trailing-stratiform organization and are influenced by baroclinic troughs more similar to storms east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States. Comparison of South American storms containing wide convective cores with storms in other parts of the world contributes to a global understanding of how major mountain ranges influence precipitating cloud systems.

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