The Influence of Shear on Deep Convection Initiation. Part I: Theory Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract This article introduces a novel hypothesis for the role of vertical wind shear (shear) in deep convection initiation (DCI). In this hypothesis, initial moist updrafts that exceed a width and shear threshold will root within a progressively deeper steering current with time, increase their low-level cloud-relative flow and inflow, widen, and subsequently reduce their susceptibility to entrainment-driven dilution, evolving toward a quasi-steady self-sustaining state. In contrast, initial updrafts that do not exceed the aforementioned thresholds experience suppressed growth by shear-induced downward pressure gradient accelerations, will not root in a deep-enough steering current to increase their inflow, will narrow with time, and will succumb to entrainment-driven dilution. In the latter case, an externally driven lifting mechanism is required to sustain deep convection, and deep convection will not persist in the absence of such lifting mechanism. A theoretical model is developed from the equations of motion to further explore this hypothesis. The model indicates that shear generally suppresses DCI, raising the initial subcloud updraft width that is necessary for it to occur. However, there is a pronounced bifurcation in updraft growth in the model after the onset of convection. Sufficiently wide initial updrafts grow and eventually achieve a steady state. In contrast, insufficiently wide initial updrafts shrink with time and eventually decay completely without external support. A sharp initial updraft radius threshold discriminates between these two outcomes. Thus, consistent with our hypothesis and observations, shear inhibits DCI in some situations, but facilitates it in others.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 59.9

author list (cited authors)

  • Peters, J. M., Morrison, H., Nelson, T. C., Marquis, J. N., Mulholland, J. P., & Nowotarski, C. J.

citation count

  • 7

complete list of authors

  • Peters, John M||Morrison, Hugh||Nelson, T Connor||Marquis, James N||Mulholland, Jake P||Nowotarski, Christopher J

publication date

  • June 2022