Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 38, Issue 6, pp 1173–1197 | Cite as

Convective Self-Aggregation in Numerical Simulations: A Review

  • Allison A. WingEmail author
  • Kerry Emanuel
  • Christopher E. Holloway
  • Caroline Muller


Organized convection in the tropics occurs across a range of spatial and temporal scales and strongly influences cloud cover and humidity. One mode of organization found is “self-aggregation,” in which moist convection spontaneously organizes into one or several isolated clusters despite spatially homogeneous boundary conditions and forcing. Self-aggregation is driven by interactions between clouds, moisture, radiation, surface fluxes, and circulation, and occurs in a wide variety of idealized simulations of radiative–convective equilibrium. Here we provide a review of convective self-aggregation in numerical simulations, including its character, causes, and effects. We describe the evolution of self-aggregation including its time and length scales and the physical mechanisms leading to its triggering and maintenance, and we also discuss possible links to climate and climate change.


Self-aggregation Convective organization Radiative–convective equilibrium Convective processes Tropical convection Idealized modeling 



This paper arises from the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) workshop on “Shallow clouds and water vapor, circulation and climate sensitivity.” AAW acknowledges support from an National Science Foundation AGS Postdoctoral Research Fellowship under Award 1433251.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lamont-Doherty Earth ObservatoryColumbia UniversityPalisadesUSA
  2. 2.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  3. 3.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  4. 4.University of ReadingReadingUK
  5. 5.Laboratoire de Météorologie DynamiqueÉcole Normale SupérieureParisFrance

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