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Stochastic and mesoscopic models for tropical convection. (English) Zbl 0998.86001
Summary: A new way to parametrize certain aspects of tropical convection through stochastic and mesoscopic models is developed here. The technical idea is to adapt tools from statistical physics and materials science to model important unresolved features of tropical convection. This new strategy consists of modeling the unresolved effects of convective inhibition in a coarse mesh mesoscopic parametrization through a “heat bath” model involving a stochastic spin flip model with very natural interaction rules for convective inhibition combined with a suitable external potential defined by the coarse mesh values. In turn, the values of the order parameter from this heat bath alter the vertical mass flux in regions of deep convection. Both stochastic and systematic deterministic mesoscopic parametrizations are developed here. The deterministic mesoscopic models derived in this fashion exhibit new phenomena such as multiple radiative equilibria in suitable parameter regimes. The simplest first numerical experiments reported here with the mesoscopic deterministic parametrization qualitatively reproduce several key features of the observational record regarding convectively coupled tropical waves. The systematic stochastic modeling strategy proposed here could also be very useful for capturing other features of tropical convection such as those involving cloud radiation feedbacks.

86A10 Meteorology and atmospheric physics
82B99 Equilibrium statistical mechanics
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