Convective storms form through the rising of warm, moist air deep within the atmosphere. These cloud systems significantly impact all life on Earth through the fresh water they provide and the severe weather they produce. They also play a fundamental role in the vertical transport and redistribution of atmospheric properties; assist in driving large-scale atmospheric circulation systems with implications for regional and global climates; and produce upper-level cirrus clouds which influence the magnitude and sign of cloud-radiative forcing. Despite the importance of convective storms, accurately representing these cloud systems in regional weather forecast models through global climate models remains extremely challenging, leaving us poorly prepared to predict and manage the impacts of convection in current and future climates. In this talk I will first describe the critical role played by convective storms in Earth’s weather and climate system. This will be followed by a discussion of some of the fundamental questions still facing the convection community and the challenges in addressing them. I will conclude with several suggestions as to what observations might enhance our theoretical understanding of convective processes and their representation within our regional and climate models.
About the lecturer: Dr. Susan van den Heever is a Monfort Professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University. She joined the CSU faculty in 2008 after obtaining her B.Sc. in Mathematics from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and her Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from Colorado State University. Dr. van den Heever’s research is focused on convective cloud processes, specifically microphysical and dynamical feedbacks, aerosol-cloud interactions, cold pools and updraft dynamics, and the representation of these processes in numerical models. She oversees the development of the RAMS model. Dr. van den Heever teaches graduate classes in cloud physics, cloud dynamics, and mesoscale modeling, and is an author of the book Storm and Cloud Dynamics. She is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society, and has received the American Geophysical Union ASCENT award, the American Meteorological Society Edward Lorenz Teaching Excellence Award, the MIT Houghton Lectureship award, and several CSU teaching and mentoring awards. She is also a Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford. Dr. van den Heever is an editor of the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences. She also co-chairs the GEWEX Aerosol and Precipitation initiative, serves on several advisory boards, and recently co-chaired the Science Community Committee (SCC) of NASA’s Aerosol, Cloud, Convection and Precipitation (ACCP) Pre-formulation Study.
Recording of a live online lecture for JPL’s Center for Climate Sciences Distinguished Climate Lecture series on September 20, 2021.