Significant Amplification of Instantaneous Extreme Precipitation With Convective Self-Aggregation

Nicolas A. Da Silva, Caroline Muller, Sara Shamekh, Benjamin Fildier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This work explores the effect of convective self-aggregation on extreme rainfall intensities through an analysis at several stages of the cloud lifecycle. In addition to increases in 3-hourly extremes consistent with previous studies, we find that instantaneous rainrates increase significantly (+30%). We mainly focus on instantaneous extremes and, using a recent framework, relate their increase to increased precipitation efficiency: the local increase in relative humidity drives larger accretion efficiency and lower re-evaporation. An in-depth analysis based on an adapted scaling for precipitation extremes reveals that the dynamic contribution decreases (−25%) while the thermodynamic is slightly enhanced (+5%) with convective self-aggregation, leading to lower condensation rates. When the atmosphere is more organized into a moist convecting region and a dry convection-free region, deep convective updrafts are surrounded by a warmer environment which reduces convective instability and thus the dynamic contribution. The moister boundary-layer explains the positive thermodynamic contribution. The microphysic contribution is increased by +50% with aggregation. The latter is partly due to reduced evaporation of rain falling through a moister near-cloud environment, but also to the associated larger accretion efficiency. Thus, a potential change in convective organization regimes in a warming climate could lead to an evolution of tropical precipitation extremes significantly different than that expected from thermodynamical considerations. The relevance of self-aggregation to the real tropics is still debated. Improved fundamental understanding of self-aggregation, its sensitivity to warming and connection to precipitation extremes, is hence crucial to achieve accurate rainfall projections in a warming climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021MS002607
JournalJournal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • convection
  • microphysics
  • precipitation extremes
  • self-aggregation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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