How Tropical Convection Couples High Moist Static Energy Over Land and Ocean

Yi Zhang, Stephan Fueglistaler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We show that in the tropics, tropical atmospheric dynamics force the subcloud moist static energy (MSE) over land and ocean to be very similar in, and only in, regions of deep convection. Using observed rainfall as a proxy for convection and reanalysis data to calculate MSE, we show that subcloud MSE in the nonconvective regions may differ substantially between land and ocean but is uniform across latitudes in convective regions even on a daily timescale. This result holds also in CMIP5 model simulations of past cold and future warm climates. Furthermore, the distribution of rainfall amount in subcloud MSE is very similar over land and ocean with the peak at 343 J/g and a half width at half maximum of 3 J/g. Our results demonstrate that the horizontally uniform free tropospheric temperature forces the highest subcloud MSE values to be similar over land and ocean.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019GL086387
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 28 2020


  • convective quasi-equilibrium
  • land-ocean contrast
  • moist static energy
  • tropical convection
  • weak temperature gradient

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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