Marine Atmospheric Boundary Layer Height over the Eastern Pacific: Data Analysis and Model Evaluation

Xubin Zeng Department of Atmospheric Sciences, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

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Michael A. Brunke Department of Atmospheric Sciences, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

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Mingyu Zhou Department of Atmospheric Sciences, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, and National Research Center for Marine Environmental Forecasts, State Oceanic Administration, Beijing, China

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Chris Fairall NOAA/Environmental Technology Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Nicholas A. Bond NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle, Washington

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Donald H. Lenschow National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

The atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) height (h) is a crucial parameter for the treatment of the ABL in weather and climate models. About 1000 soundings from 11 cruises between 1995 and 2001 over the eastern Pacific have been analyzed to document the large meridional, zonal, seasonal, and interannual variations of h. In particular, its latitudinal distribution in August has three minima: near the equator, in the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), and over the subtropical stratus/stratocumulus region near the west coast of California and Mexico. The seasonal peak of h in the ITCZ zone (between 5.6° and 11.2°N) occurs in the spring (February or April), while it occurs in August between the equator and 5.6°N.

Comparison of these data with the 10-yr monthly output of the Community Climate System Model (CCSM2) reveals that overall the model underestimates h, particularly north of 20°N in August and September. Directly applying the radiosonde data to the CCSM2 formulation for computing h shows that, at the original vertical resolution (with the lowest five layers below 2.1 km), the CCSM2 formulation would significantly underestimate h. In particular, the correlation coefficient between the computed and observed h values is only 0.06 for cloudy cases. If the model resolution were doubled below 2.1 km, however, the performance of the model formulation would be significantly improved with a correlation coefficient of 0.78 for cloudy cases.

Corresponding author address: Xubin Zeng, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721. Email: zeng@atmo.arizona.edu

Abstract

The atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) height (h) is a crucial parameter for the treatment of the ABL in weather and climate models. About 1000 soundings from 11 cruises between 1995 and 2001 over the eastern Pacific have been analyzed to document the large meridional, zonal, seasonal, and interannual variations of h. In particular, its latitudinal distribution in August has three minima: near the equator, in the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), and over the subtropical stratus/stratocumulus region near the west coast of California and Mexico. The seasonal peak of h in the ITCZ zone (between 5.6° and 11.2°N) occurs in the spring (February or April), while it occurs in August between the equator and 5.6°N.

Comparison of these data with the 10-yr monthly output of the Community Climate System Model (CCSM2) reveals that overall the model underestimates h, particularly north of 20°N in August and September. Directly applying the radiosonde data to the CCSM2 formulation for computing h shows that, at the original vertical resolution (with the lowest five layers below 2.1 km), the CCSM2 formulation would significantly underestimate h. In particular, the correlation coefficient between the computed and observed h values is only 0.06 for cloudy cases. If the model resolution were doubled below 2.1 km, however, the performance of the model formulation would be significantly improved with a correlation coefficient of 0.78 for cloudy cases.

Corresponding author address: Xubin Zeng, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721. Email: zeng@atmo.arizona.edu

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