Waves and multiscale processes in the tropics

December 6 to December 10, 2010

at the

American Institute of Mathematics, Palo Alto, California

organized by

Joseph Biello, Boualem Khouider, and George Kiladis

Original Announcement

This workshop will bring university-based mathematicians and physicists together with scientists from operational climate modeling centers to discuss the new insights and the mathematical basis for tropical multiscale processes coming from observations and from theory, and the consequences of such insights for the simulation of these processes in fully complex global climate models.

A multiscale system like the climate is forced on a wide variety of temporal scales ranging from secular (anthropogenic, geological and astronomical sources) down to the diurnal cycle of solar forcing. Though such forcing occurs on the largest spatial scales of the Earth, it is communicated to the atmosphere on vastly smaller scales, containing large spatial and temporal inhomogeneities due to surface property and latitudinal differences. The resulting forcing along with the earth's rotation gives rise to a rich variety of disturbances in the atmosphere, from individual cloud elements on up to planetary scale waves that traverse the globe and affect weather on subdaily to seasonal time scales. Much of this wave activity is well understood in principle, especially in the extratropics, which for example enables reasonably skillful weather forecasts out to several days to be made there. However the tropical atmosphere is considerably more complex essentially due to the coupling between wave dynamics and moisture. Such coupling is two‐way, with large scale waves organizing tropical convection which then feeds back onto the circulation through the release of latent heat in storms.

The dynamics of organized multiscale convective systems in the tropics presents one of the most challenging problems in contemporary dynamical meteorology, requiring new developments in fluid mechanics, scientific computing, and statistical physics. A comprehensive theoretical understanding of the organized, multiscale processes within the tropical atmosphere and the resulting waves has yet to be achieved. Furthermore, numerical simulations (General Circulation Models) are neither able to capture the upscale organization from tropical convection nor do they faithfully represent the wave activity. A theoretical understanding of these upscale processes and the resulting planetary waves generated are essential for understanding how climate change will affect global weather patterns.

Material from the workshop

A list of participants.

The workshop schedule.

A report on the workshop activities.