Tropical convection is a key process in Earth’s climate and its representation in climate models remains difficult.

This study uses 13 years of weather radar data in Darwin, Australia, to investigate how the structure of convective clouds relates to the environment they are embedded in.

It finds that the strongest convection at a single location occurs in dry, descending and highly unstable atmosphere when only a few large clouds are present.

In contrast, the most rain averaged over an area of about 100×100 km2 occurs when convection is wide-spread but relatively weak. In those situations, the atmosphere is very moist, ascending and only weakly unstable.

The work highlights the utility of long-term radar observations in the tropics to further our understanding of the important process of atmospheric convection.

  • Louf, V., Jakob, C., Protat, A., Bergemann, M., & Narsey, S. ( 2019). The relationship of cloud number and size with their large‐scale environment in deep tropical convection. Geophysical Research Letters,46.