Middle Atmosphere Simulated with High Vertical and Horizontal Resolution Versions of a GCM: Improvements in the Cold Pole Bias and Generation of a QBO-like Oscillation in the Tropics

Kevin Hamilton NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

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R. John Wilson NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

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Richard S. Hemler NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

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Abstract

The large-scale circulation in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory “SKYHI” troposphere–stratosphere–mesosphere finite-difference general circulation model is examined as a function of vertical and horizontal resolution. The experiments examined include one with horizontal grid spacing of ∼35 km and another with ∼100 km horizontal grid spacing but very high vertical resolution (160 levels between the ground and about 85 km). The simulation of the middle-atmospheric zonal-mean winds and temperatures in the extratropics is found to be very sensitive to horizontal resolution. For example, in the early Southern Hemisphere winter the South Pole near 1 mb in the model is colder than observed, but the bias is reduced with improved horizontal resolution (from ∼70°C in a version with ∼300 km grid spacing to less than 10°C in the ∼35 km version). The extratropical simulation is found to be only slightly affected by enhancements of the vertical resolution. By contrast, the tropical middle-atmospheric simulation is extremely dependent on the vertical resolution employed. With level spacing in the lower stratosphere ∼1.5 km, the lower stratospheric zonal-mean zonal winds in the equatorial region are nearly constant in time. When the vertical resolution is doubled, the simulated stratospheric zonal winds exhibit a strong equatorially centered oscillation with downward propagation of the wind reversals and with formation of strong vertical shear layers. This appears to be a spontaneous internally generated oscillation and closely resembles the observed QBO in many respects, although the simulated oscillation has a period less than half that of the real QBO.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Kevin Hamilton, NOAA/GFDL, Princeton University, P.O. Box 308, Princeton, NJ 08542.

Email: kph@gfdl.gov

Abstract

The large-scale circulation in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory “SKYHI” troposphere–stratosphere–mesosphere finite-difference general circulation model is examined as a function of vertical and horizontal resolution. The experiments examined include one with horizontal grid spacing of ∼35 km and another with ∼100 km horizontal grid spacing but very high vertical resolution (160 levels between the ground and about 85 km). The simulation of the middle-atmospheric zonal-mean winds and temperatures in the extratropics is found to be very sensitive to horizontal resolution. For example, in the early Southern Hemisphere winter the South Pole near 1 mb in the model is colder than observed, but the bias is reduced with improved horizontal resolution (from ∼70°C in a version with ∼300 km grid spacing to less than 10°C in the ∼35 km version). The extratropical simulation is found to be only slightly affected by enhancements of the vertical resolution. By contrast, the tropical middle-atmospheric simulation is extremely dependent on the vertical resolution employed. With level spacing in the lower stratosphere ∼1.5 km, the lower stratospheric zonal-mean zonal winds in the equatorial region are nearly constant in time. When the vertical resolution is doubled, the simulated stratospheric zonal winds exhibit a strong equatorially centered oscillation with downward propagation of the wind reversals and with formation of strong vertical shear layers. This appears to be a spontaneous internally generated oscillation and closely resembles the observed QBO in many respects, although the simulated oscillation has a period less than half that of the real QBO.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Kevin Hamilton, NOAA/GFDL, Princeton University, P.O. Box 308, Princeton, NJ 08542.

Email: kph@gfdl.gov

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