Forcing Convection to Aggregate Using Diabatic Heating Perturbations

Beth Dingley*, Guy Dagan, Philip Stier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Tropical deep convection can aggregate into large clusters, which can have impacts on the local humidity and precipitation. Sea surface temperature (SST) gradients have been shown to organize convection, yet there has been little work done to investigate the impact of diabatic heating perturbations in the atmosphere on the aggregation of convection. Here we investigate how anomalous diabatic heating of the atmospheric column, through an idealized aerosol plume, affects the existence and mechanisms of convective aggregation in non-rotating, global radiative-convective equilibrium simulations. We show that the aerosol forcing has the ability to increase the degree of aggregation, especially at lower SSTs. Detailed investigation shows that the diabatic heating source incites a thermally driven circulation, forced by the shortwave perturbation. The increase in aggregation is caused in part by this circulation, and in part by the longwave heating anomalies occurring due to the surface convergence of moisture and convection. At higher SSTs, longwave feedbacks are crucial for the aggregation of convection, even with the shortwave heating perturbation. At lower SSTs, convection is able to aggregate with the shortwave perturbation in the absence of longwave feedbacks. These perturbations provide a link to studying the effects of absorbing aerosol plumes on convection, for example during the Indian monsoon season. We argue that, as there is aggregation for plumes with realistic aerosol absorption optical depths, this could be an analogue for real-world organization in regions with high pollution.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere2021MS002579
JournalJournal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Geophysical Union.


  • aerosol-cloud interactions
  • convective organization
  • self-aggregation
  • tropical convection


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