Characterizing the North American Monsoon in the Community Atmosphere Model: Sensitivity to Resolution and Topography

Arianna M. Varuolo-Clarke School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, State University of New York, Stony Brook, and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, New York, New York

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Kevin A. Reed School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York

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Brian Medeiros National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

This work examines the effect of horizontal resolution and topography on the North American monsoon (NAM) in experiments with an atmospheric general circulation model. Observations are used to evaluate the fidelity of the representation of the monsoon in simulations from the Community Atmosphere Model version 5 (CAM5) with a standard 1.0° grid spacing and a high-resolution 0.25° grid spacing. The simulated monsoon has some realistic features, but both configurations also show precipitation biases. The default 1.0° grid spacing configuration simulates a monsoon with an annual cycle and intensity of precipitation within the observational range, but the monsoon begins and ends too gradually and does not reach far enough north. This study shows that the improved representation of topography in the high-resolution (0.25° grid spacing) configuration improves the regional circulation and therefore some aspects of the simulated monsoon compared to the 1.0° counterpart. At higher resolution, CAM5 simulates a stronger low pressure center over the American Southwest, with more realistic low-level wind flow than in the 1.0° configuration. As a result, the monsoon precipitation increases as does the amplitude of the annual cycle of precipitation. A moisture analysis sheds light on the monsoon dynamics, indicating that changes in the advection of enthalpy and moist static energy drive the differences between monsoon precipitation in CAM5 1.0° compared to the 0.25° configuration. Additional simulations confirm that these improvements are mainly due to the topographic influence on the low-level flow through the Gulf of California, and not only the increase in horizontal resolution.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Arianna M. Varuolo-Clarke, ariannav@ldeo.columbia.edu

Abstract

This work examines the effect of horizontal resolution and topography on the North American monsoon (NAM) in experiments with an atmospheric general circulation model. Observations are used to evaluate the fidelity of the representation of the monsoon in simulations from the Community Atmosphere Model version 5 (CAM5) with a standard 1.0° grid spacing and a high-resolution 0.25° grid spacing. The simulated monsoon has some realistic features, but both configurations also show precipitation biases. The default 1.0° grid spacing configuration simulates a monsoon with an annual cycle and intensity of precipitation within the observational range, but the monsoon begins and ends too gradually and does not reach far enough north. This study shows that the improved representation of topography in the high-resolution (0.25° grid spacing) configuration improves the regional circulation and therefore some aspects of the simulated monsoon compared to the 1.0° counterpart. At higher resolution, CAM5 simulates a stronger low pressure center over the American Southwest, with more realistic low-level wind flow than in the 1.0° configuration. As a result, the monsoon precipitation increases as does the amplitude of the annual cycle of precipitation. A moisture analysis sheds light on the monsoon dynamics, indicating that changes in the advection of enthalpy and moist static energy drive the differences between monsoon precipitation in CAM5 1.0° compared to the 0.25° configuration. Additional simulations confirm that these improvements are mainly due to the topographic influence on the low-level flow through the Gulf of California, and not only the increase in horizontal resolution.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Arianna M. Varuolo-Clarke, ariannav@ldeo.columbia.edu
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