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Can a Regional Climate Model Improve the Ability to Forecast the North American Monsoon?

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
  • | 2 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, and Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
  • | 3 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
  • | 4 Climate Prediction Center, NCEP/NWS, Camp Springs, Maryland
  • | 5 Environmental Modeling Center, NCEP/NWS, Camp Springs, Maryland
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Abstract

Global climate models are challenged to represent the North American monsoon, in terms of its climatology and interannual variability. To investigate whether a regional atmospheric model can improve warm season forecasts in North America, a retrospective Climate Forecast System (CFS) model reforecast (1982–2000) and the corresponding NCEP–NCAR reanalysis are dynamically downscaled with the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF), with similar parameterization options as used for high-resolution numerical weather prediction and a new spectral nudging capability. The regional model improves the climatological representation of monsoon precipitation because of its more realistic representation of the diurnal cycle of convection. However, it is challenged to capture organized, propagating convection at a distance from terrain, regardless of the boundary forcing data used. Dynamical downscaling of CFS generally yields modest improvement in surface temperature and precipitation anomaly correlations in those regions where it is already positive in the global model. For the North American monsoon region, WRF adds value to the seasonally forecast temperature only in early summer and does not add value to the seasonally forecast precipitation. CFS has a greater ability to represent the large-scale atmospheric circulation in early summer because of the influence of Pacific SST forcing. The temperature and precipitation anomaly correlations in both the global and regional model are thus relatively higher in early summer than late summer. As the dominant modes of early warm season precipitation are better represented in the regional model, given reasonable large-scale atmospheric forcing, dynamical downscaling will add value to warm season seasonal forecasts. CFS performance appears to be inconsistent in this regard.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Christopher L. Castro, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, The University of Arizona, Physics and Atmospheric Sciences Bldg., Rm. 520, 1118 East Fourth Street, Tucson, AZ 85721-0081. E-mail: castro@atmo.arizona.edu

Abstract

Global climate models are challenged to represent the North American monsoon, in terms of its climatology and interannual variability. To investigate whether a regional atmospheric model can improve warm season forecasts in North America, a retrospective Climate Forecast System (CFS) model reforecast (1982–2000) and the corresponding NCEP–NCAR reanalysis are dynamically downscaled with the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF), with similar parameterization options as used for high-resolution numerical weather prediction and a new spectral nudging capability. The regional model improves the climatological representation of monsoon precipitation because of its more realistic representation of the diurnal cycle of convection. However, it is challenged to capture organized, propagating convection at a distance from terrain, regardless of the boundary forcing data used. Dynamical downscaling of CFS generally yields modest improvement in surface temperature and precipitation anomaly correlations in those regions where it is already positive in the global model. For the North American monsoon region, WRF adds value to the seasonally forecast temperature only in early summer and does not add value to the seasonally forecast precipitation. CFS has a greater ability to represent the large-scale atmospheric circulation in early summer because of the influence of Pacific SST forcing. The temperature and precipitation anomaly correlations in both the global and regional model are thus relatively higher in early summer than late summer. As the dominant modes of early warm season precipitation are better represented in the regional model, given reasonable large-scale atmospheric forcing, dynamical downscaling will add value to warm season seasonal forecasts. CFS performance appears to be inconsistent in this regard.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Christopher L. Castro, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, The University of Arizona, Physics and Atmospheric Sciences Bldg., Rm. 520, 1118 East Fourth Street, Tucson, AZ 85721-0081. E-mail: castro@atmo.arizona.edu
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