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The Dynamics of Idealized Convection Schemes and Their Effect on the Zonally Averaged Tropical Circulation

Dargan M. W. FriersonUniversity of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

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Abstract

In this paper, the effect of a simple convection scheme on the zonally averaged tropical general circulation is examined within an idealized moist GCM to obtain broad classifications of the influence of convection on the Tropics. This is accomplished with a simplified convection scheme in the style of Betts and Miller. The scheme is utilized in a moist GCM with simplified physical parameterizations (gray radiation, with zonally symmetric, slab mixed layer ocean boundary conditions).

Comparisons are made with simulations without a convection scheme [i.e., with large-scale condensation (LSC) only], with the moist convective adjustment (MCA) parameterization, and with various formulations and parameter sets with a simplified Betts–Miller (SBM) scheme. With the control run using the SBM scheme, the Tropics become quieter and less dependent on horizontal resolution as compared with the LSC or MCA simulations. The Hadley circulation mass transport is significantly reduced with the SBM scheme, as is the ITCZ precipitation. An important factor determining this behavior is the parameterization of shallow convection: without shallow convection, the convection scheme is largely ineffective at preventing convection from occurring at the grid scale.

The sensitivities to convection scheme parameters are also examined. The simulations are remarkably insensitive to the convective relaxation time, and only mildly sensitive to the relative humidity of the reference profile, provided significant large-scale condensation is not allowed to occur. The changes in the zonally averaged tropical circulation that occur in all the simulations are understood based on the convective criteria of the schemes and the gross moist stability of the atmosphere.

Corresponding author address: Dargan Frierson, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637. Email: frierson@geosci.uchicago.edu

Abstract

In this paper, the effect of a simple convection scheme on the zonally averaged tropical general circulation is examined within an idealized moist GCM to obtain broad classifications of the influence of convection on the Tropics. This is accomplished with a simplified convection scheme in the style of Betts and Miller. The scheme is utilized in a moist GCM with simplified physical parameterizations (gray radiation, with zonally symmetric, slab mixed layer ocean boundary conditions).

Comparisons are made with simulations without a convection scheme [i.e., with large-scale condensation (LSC) only], with the moist convective adjustment (MCA) parameterization, and with various formulations and parameter sets with a simplified Betts–Miller (SBM) scheme. With the control run using the SBM scheme, the Tropics become quieter and less dependent on horizontal resolution as compared with the LSC or MCA simulations. The Hadley circulation mass transport is significantly reduced with the SBM scheme, as is the ITCZ precipitation. An important factor determining this behavior is the parameterization of shallow convection: without shallow convection, the convection scheme is largely ineffective at preventing convection from occurring at the grid scale.

The sensitivities to convection scheme parameters are also examined. The simulations are remarkably insensitive to the convective relaxation time, and only mildly sensitive to the relative humidity of the reference profile, provided significant large-scale condensation is not allowed to occur. The changes in the zonally averaged tropical circulation that occur in all the simulations are understood based on the convective criteria of the schemes and the gross moist stability of the atmosphere.

Corresponding author address: Dargan Frierson, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637. Email: frierson@geosci.uchicago.edu

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