Land and atmospheric controls on initiation and intensity of moist convection: CAPE dynamics and LCL crossings

Jun Yin, John D. Albertson, James R. Rigby, Amilcare Michele M. Porporato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The local role that land-atmosphere interactions play in the rainfall process has been often explored by investigating the initiation of moist convection as the top of the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) crosses the lifting condensation level (LCL). However, this LCL crossing alone is not a sufficient indicator of the probability and intensity of subsequent convective precipitation, which is instead better characterized by the added consideration of the so-called convective available potential energy (CAPE). In this study, both the LCL crossing and CAPE are jointly considered as the primary indicators of the occurrence and intensity of moist convection in order to analyze the land-atmosphere interactions through a simple soil-plant system and a zero-dimensional mixed-layer model. The approach is explored using the free atmospheric conditions observed at the Central Facility in the Southern Great Plains, where the ABL analysis shows both dry and wet soil can be conducive to early moist convection depending on atmospheric conditions but CAPE always tends to be larger under wetter soil conditions. The combination of the two indicators, LCL crossing and CAPE, further allows us to classify free atmosphere and soil moisture regimes into positive and negative feedback regimes for moist convection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8476-8493
Number of pages18
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


  • atmospheric boundary layer
  • atmospheric convection
  • convective available potential energy
  • land-atmosphere interaction
  • soil moisture-rainfall feedback
  • soil-plant-atmosphere continuum


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