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Moisture Interchange between Clouds and Environment
in a Tropical Atmosphere


Carlos S. López Carrillo

Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements

for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy

Physics Department
New Mexico Tech
Socorro, New Mexico
July 2001

To Julieta, Lucio, and Damián
The best children no father could have.

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In this work a theory for moisture interchange between cloud systems and their environment in the tropical atmosphere is developed. Data collected during the intensive operation period of TOGA-COARE (Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere-Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment) is then used to study, on a case-by-case basis, the nature of this interchange for different convective regimes. The kinematic characteristics of the studied systems for each of the ten cases are synthesized from Doppler measurements made by the two National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration WP-3D aircraft, while the environmental conditions were retrieved from balloon soundings made nearby the studied region. For this ten-case sample, a strong correlation between system-top height and tropospheric moisture (in the layer between 1 and 10 km) is found. The analysis indicates that it is tropospheric moisture which is controlling the height of the clouds and not vice-versa. It is found that the role of small clouds is to moisten the environment while deep convective regimes dry their environment.

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At the end of the long period of time, that the making of a dissertation spans, it is good to look back and see the team of people that had helped you, so you can accomplish this goal. It is good to know that one is not alone. At this point, I would like to thank some of the many people that had helping me in various ways.

I want to thank the guidance and support that I received from my adviser Dr. David J. Raymond, who expended with me many hours discussing how convection works in general, and in particular over the tropical regions. I also want to thank the confidence deposited in me by Dr. Odon Sanchez, who first told me about the research opportunities in atmospheric sciences, and for his support that allow me to pursue further graduate studies in this area. I'm grateful to the members of my committee: Drs. Kenneth R. Mischwaner, Steve Schaffer, and Ken Eack for their prompt review of the manuscript and the suggestions they made to improve it. I particularly want to thank my fellow student Clifton Murray for proof reading the many versions of the manuscript, which considerably improved the way it was written. Special thanks goes to Sandy Kieft whose mastery and efficiency of administrative matters, took lots of worries from my head.

A good part of this work could not be possible with out the data provided by John Daugherty from NOAA/NSSL. Most of the data analysis was made using the in-house CANDIS software pioneered by David J. Raymond and further developed by many students here at New Mexico Tech. I also benefited from powerful packages such as Rlab by Ian Searle, and Gri by Dan E. Kelley. All my work was done on a Linux-debian platform.

I especially want to thank my source of continuous inspiration since I remember - my mother, who instilled in me her strong work ethic. My children, I have to thank no only for being a source of inspiration for me, but also for being so patient with me and give up much of our precious time together.

From all people that had helped me, there is one for who I can hardly express my gratitude, for supporting me in so many ways, for being the source of energy and joy that keep me going ... Thank You, Chata - my wife.

This work was supported by the following National Science Foundation grants:
ATM-9311735, ATM-9413289, ATM-9616290, and ATM-0082612.


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List of Figures

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List of Tables

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Carlos Lopez Carrillo 2001-12-28