The Coastal Convective Interactions Experiment (CCIE): Understanding the Role of Sea Breezes for Hailstorm Hotspots in Eastern Australia

Soderholm, Joshua ; McGowan, Hamish ; Richter, Harald ; Walsh, Kevin ; Weckwerth, Tammy ; Coleman, Matthew

Année de publication
Thunderstorm-affected communities develop an awareness of “hotspot” regions that historically experience more frequent or intense storm activity across many years. A scientifically based understanding of this localized variability has significant implications for both the public and industry; however, a lack of sufficiently long and robust observational datasets has limited prior research at the mesogamma spatial scale (2–20 km). This is particularly true for coastal environments, where hotspot activity has been documented in very few locales (e.g., Florida, southern Appalachian coastal plains, and the Iberian Peninsula), despite 45% of the global population living within 150 km of the coast. The Coastal Convective Interactions Experiment (CCIE) focuses on quantifying hailstorm hotspot activity for the coastal South East Queensland (SEQ) region of Australia and understanding the meteorological conditions that result in the spatial clustering of hailstorm activity. An automated thunderstorm identification and tracking technique applied to 18 years of radar data identifies not only the hailstorm hotpots well known to experienced local forecasters but an apparent link between localized maxima and the presence of sea-breeze activity. These climatological findings provided the motivation and guidance for a two-season field campaign to investigate the role of the sea breeze in thunderstorm development. Details of the experiment strategy and equipment specifications are presented alongside preliminary results. Significant complexities were observed within sea-breeze and thunderstorms circulations, limiting the application of standard concepts for idealized gravity current interactions. Furthermore, a multi-instrument case study of a sea-breeze–thunderstorm cold pool interaction identifies the comparatively low sea-breeze buoyancy as the primary contributor toward inhibiting new convective initiation, despite the vorticity balance argument favoring deeper updrafts.

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