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Western Pacific Warm Pool Region Sensitivity to Convective Triggering byBoundary Layer Thermals in the NOGAPS Atmospheric GCM

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  • 1 Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, California
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Abstract

The sensitivity of the atmospheric general circulation model of the Navy Operational Global Atmospheric Prediction System to a parameterization of convective triggering by atmospheric boundary layer thermals is investigated. The study focuses on the western Pacific warm pool region and examines the results of seasonal integrations of the model for the winter of 1987/88. A parameterization for thermal triggering of deep convection is presented that is based on a classification of the unstable boundary layer. Surface-based deep convection is allowed only for boundary layer regimes associated with the presence of thermals. The regime classification is expressed in terms of a Richardson number that reflects the relative significance of buoyancy and shear in the boundary layer. By constraining deep convection to conditions consistent with the occurrence of thermals (high buoyancy to shear ratios), there is a significant decrease in precipitation over the southern portion of the northeast trade wind zone in the tropical Pacific and along the ITCZ. This decrease in precipitation allows for an increased flux of moisture into the region south of the equator corresponding to the warmest portion of the Pacific warm pool. Improvements in the simulated distribution of precipitation, precipitable water, and low-level winds in the tropical Pacific are demonstrated. Over the western Pacific, the transition from free convective conditions associated with thermals to forced convective conditions is found to be primarily due to variations in mixed layer wind speed. Low-level winds thus play the major role in regulating the ability of thermals to initiate deep convection. The lack of coupling with the ocean in these simulations may possibly produce a distorted picture in this regard.

Corresponding author address: Dr. James A. Ridout, NRL-Monterey, 7 Grace Hopper Ave., Stop 2, Monterey, CA 93943-5502.

Email: ridout@nrlmry.navy.mil

Abstract

The sensitivity of the atmospheric general circulation model of the Navy Operational Global Atmospheric Prediction System to a parameterization of convective triggering by atmospheric boundary layer thermals is investigated. The study focuses on the western Pacific warm pool region and examines the results of seasonal integrations of the model for the winter of 1987/88. A parameterization for thermal triggering of deep convection is presented that is based on a classification of the unstable boundary layer. Surface-based deep convection is allowed only for boundary layer regimes associated with the presence of thermals. The regime classification is expressed in terms of a Richardson number that reflects the relative significance of buoyancy and shear in the boundary layer. By constraining deep convection to conditions consistent with the occurrence of thermals (high buoyancy to shear ratios), there is a significant decrease in precipitation over the southern portion of the northeast trade wind zone in the tropical Pacific and along the ITCZ. This decrease in precipitation allows for an increased flux of moisture into the region south of the equator corresponding to the warmest portion of the Pacific warm pool. Improvements in the simulated distribution of precipitation, precipitable water, and low-level winds in the tropical Pacific are demonstrated. Over the western Pacific, the transition from free convective conditions associated with thermals to forced convective conditions is found to be primarily due to variations in mixed layer wind speed. Low-level winds thus play the major role in regulating the ability of thermals to initiate deep convection. The lack of coupling with the ocean in these simulations may possibly produce a distorted picture in this regard.

Corresponding author address: Dr. James A. Ridout, NRL-Monterey, 7 Grace Hopper Ave., Stop 2, Monterey, CA 93943-5502.

Email: ridout@nrlmry.navy.mil

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