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Convective Entrainment and Large-Scale Organization of Tropical Precipitation: Sensitivity of the CNRM-CM5 Hierarchy of Models

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  • 1 Centre National de Recherches Météorologiques, Centre National de Recherches Scientifiques/Météo-France, Toulouse, France
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Abstract

The spurious double intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) is a systematic bias affecting state-of-the-art coupled general circulation models (GCMs). Modeling studies show that the ITCZ structure is very sensitive to moist convection parameterization and in particular, to the vertical profile of convective heating and free-tropospheric moistening. To further explore this sensitivity, the authors focus in this study on the influence of lateral entrainment in convective plumes on the simulated tropical precipitation and large-scale circulation. Sensitivity studies to the entrainment parameter were performed in a hierarchy of models (coupled ocean–atmosphere GCM, atmospheric GCM, and aquaplanet GCM), in order to mitigate the double ITCZ problem in the Centre National de Recherches Météorologiques Coupled Global Climate Model, version 5 (CNRM-CM5). The sensitivity of the ITCZ structure to lateral entrainment is robust across our hierarchy of models. In response to increased entrainment, the realistic simulations exhibit a weakening of the southern side of the double ITCZ over the southeastern Pacific Ocean and a better representation of the South Pacific convergence zone (SPCZ). However, as a result of stronger moisture–convection feedbacks, precipitation is overestimated in the center of convergence zones. The change in ITCZ configuration is associated with a more realistic representation of the large-scale vertical regimes, explained by a decreased frequency of weak-to-moderate ascending regimes and an enhanced frequency of subsidence regimes. Mechanisms at play in this circulation change are examined by analyzing the vertically integrated dry static energy budget. This energetic analysis suggests that the feedback between large-scale dynamics and deep convection is crucial in controlling the probability distribution function (PDF) of midtropospheric vertical wind. This PDF, in turn, controls the precipitation distribution and, in particular, the double ITCZ bias.

Corresponding author address: Boutheina Oueslati, CNRM, CNRS/Météo-France, 42 Avenue Gaspard Coriolis, 31057 Toulouse CEDEX 01, France. E-mail: boutheina.oueslati@meteo.fr

Abstract

The spurious double intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) is a systematic bias affecting state-of-the-art coupled general circulation models (GCMs). Modeling studies show that the ITCZ structure is very sensitive to moist convection parameterization and in particular, to the vertical profile of convective heating and free-tropospheric moistening. To further explore this sensitivity, the authors focus in this study on the influence of lateral entrainment in convective plumes on the simulated tropical precipitation and large-scale circulation. Sensitivity studies to the entrainment parameter were performed in a hierarchy of models (coupled ocean–atmosphere GCM, atmospheric GCM, and aquaplanet GCM), in order to mitigate the double ITCZ problem in the Centre National de Recherches Météorologiques Coupled Global Climate Model, version 5 (CNRM-CM5). The sensitivity of the ITCZ structure to lateral entrainment is robust across our hierarchy of models. In response to increased entrainment, the realistic simulations exhibit a weakening of the southern side of the double ITCZ over the southeastern Pacific Ocean and a better representation of the South Pacific convergence zone (SPCZ). However, as a result of stronger moisture–convection feedbacks, precipitation is overestimated in the center of convergence zones. The change in ITCZ configuration is associated with a more realistic representation of the large-scale vertical regimes, explained by a decreased frequency of weak-to-moderate ascending regimes and an enhanced frequency of subsidence regimes. Mechanisms at play in this circulation change are examined by analyzing the vertically integrated dry static energy budget. This energetic analysis suggests that the feedback between large-scale dynamics and deep convection is crucial in controlling the probability distribution function (PDF) of midtropospheric vertical wind. This PDF, in turn, controls the precipitation distribution and, in particular, the double ITCZ bias.

Corresponding author address: Boutheina Oueslati, CNRM, CNRS/Météo-France, 42 Avenue Gaspard Coriolis, 31057 Toulouse CEDEX 01, France. E-mail: boutheina.oueslati@meteo.fr
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