Different mechanisms for daytime, nighttime, and compound heatwaves in southern China

Ming Luo, Ngar Cheung Lau, Zhen Liu

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31 Scopus citations


Heatwaves often cause immense stress on human society and the natural environment. While heatwaves can be classified into daytime, nighttime, and compound daytime-nighttime types, the specific processes associated with different heatwave types remain poorly understood. In this paper, we identify different mechanisms operating in compound (i.e., extreme heat during both day and night) and independent daytime and nighttime heatwaves in southern China. Compound heatwaves generally exhibit stronger temperature increases than either daytime or nighttime types. Daytime heatwaves are accompanied by increased downward shortwave radiation under a clear sky with reduced cloud cover and moisture. Nighttime heatwaves are characterized by more cloudy and moist conditions, and increased downward longwave radiation at the surface at night. A combination of these conditions for daytime and nighttime heatwaves prevail during compound heatwaves. All three types of heatwaves are associated with strengthening and eastward extension of the South Asian high (SAH) in the upper troposphere, and strengthening and westward extension of the western North Pacific subtropical high (WNPSH) in the lower and middle troposphere. Further examinations suggest that compound heatwaves are accompanied by the strongest intensification of SAH and WNPSH. Compared with daytime heatwaves, nighttime events are associated with a stronger amplitude of SAH and WNPSH, and both highs tend to extend more southward when nighttime heatwaves occur. This southward extension induces an anomalous lower-level anticyclone that drives a southwesterly wind anomaly over southeastern China. This circulation feature transports warmer and more humid air towards southern China. The enhanced concentration of water vapor leads to increased absorption of outgoing longwave radiation, and increased re-emission of longwave radiation to the surface, thus resulting in surface warming at night.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100449
JournalWeather and Climate Extremes
StatePublished - Jun 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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