The tropics provide unique research challenges.
The influence of cumulus cloud processes and thunderstorms on tropical weather and climate is substantially greater than it is in the mid-latitudes. Therefore, a comprehension of these processes is crucial in the understanding of tropical weather and climate.
Research in this field uses tools such as satellite data and images, data sets compiled by international research projects and fieldwork campaigns, and numerical simulation of weather and climate processes using high-performance computing.
This video compares weather model simulated clouds with a time lapse, both looking north from the Australian mainland towards the Tiwi Islands where a thunderstorm develops in the afternoon of 29 April 2014. The video covers a period of about 4.5 hours and both the model and the observed time-lapse have frames for every minute.
The timing of thunderstorm development is slightly later in the model, so the model time period lags the time-lapse by about 40 minutes. In both the weather model and the time-lapse, the low-level easterly winds move the smaller clouds towards the west. Once the thunderstorms develop, the movement changes as the deep clouds interact with winds higher up. The flat tops of the thunderstorms, the 'anvils', moves gently eastward, an indication of light westerly winds at the top of the troposphere.
This thunderstorm occurs so frequently over the Tiwi Islands that it has a name - 'Hector the Convector'. The weather model used is called the Weather Research and Forecast model and the time-lapses are made by the Brisbane Storm Chasers.