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Satellite Estimates of Precipitation-Induced Dissipation in the Atmosphere

Science  24 Feb 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6071, pp. 953-956
DOI: 10.1126/science.1215869

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Abstract

A substantial amount of frictional dissipation in the atmosphere occurs in the microphysical shear zones surrounding falling precipitation. The dissipation rate is computed here from recently available satellite retrieval from the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Missions and is found to average 1.8 watts per square meter between 30°S and 30°N. The geographical distribution of the precipitation-induced dissipation is closely tied to that of precipitation but also reveals a stronger dissipation rate for continental convection than for maritime convection. Because the precipitation-induced dissipation is of the same magnitude as the turbulent dissipation of the kinetic energy in the atmosphere, changes in the hydrological cycle could potentially have a direct impact on the amount of kinetic energy generated and dissipated by the atmospheric circulation.

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