Resolution Requirements for the Simulation of Deep Moist Convection

George H. Bryan Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

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John C. Wyngaard Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

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J. Michael Fritsch Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

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Abstract

The spatial resolution appropriate for the simulation of deep moist convection is addressed from a turbulence perspective. To provide a clear theoretical framework for the problem, techniques for simulating turbulent flows are reviewed, and the source of the subgrid terms in the Navier–Stokes equation is clarified.

For decades, cloud-resolving models have used large-eddy simulation (LES) techniques to parameterize the subgrid terms. A literature review suggests that the appropriateness of using traditional LES closures for this purpose has never been established. Furthermore, examination of the assumptions inherent in these closures suggests that grid spacing on the order of 100 m may be required for the performance of cloud models to be consistent with their design.

Based on these arguments, numerical simulations of squall lines were conducted with grid spacings between 1 km and 125 m. The results reveal that simulations with 1-km grid spacing do not produce equivalent squall-line structure and evolution as compared to the higher-resolution simulations. Details of the simulated squall lines that change as resolution is increased include precipitation amount, system phase speed, cloud depth, static stability values, the size of thunderstorm cells, and the organizational mode of convective overturning (e.g., upright towers versus sloped plumes). It is argued that the ability of the higher-resolution runs to become turbulent leads directly to the differences in evolution.

There appear to be no systematic trends in specific fields as resolution is increased. For example, mean vertical velocity and rainwater values increase in magnitude with increasing resolution in some environments, but decrease with increasing resolution in other environments. The statistical properties of the simulated squall lines are still not converged between the 250- and 125-m runs. Several possible explanations for the lack of convergence are offered. Nevertheless, it is clear that simulations with O(1 km) grid spacing should not be used as benchmark or control solutions for resolution sensitivity studies.

The simulations also support the contention that a minimum grid spacing of O(100 m) is required for traditional LES closures to perform appropriately for their design. Specifically, only simulations with 250- and 125-m grid spacing resolve an inertial subrange. In contrast, the 1-km simulations do not even reproduce the correct magnitude or scale of the spectral kinetic energy maximum. Furthermore, the 1-km simulations contain an unacceptably large amount of subgrid turbulence kinetic energy, and do not adequately resolve turbulent fluxes of total water.

A guide to resolution requirements for the operational and research communities is proposed. The proposal is based primarily on the intended use of the model output. Even though simulations with O(1 km) grid spacing display behavior that is unacceptable for the model design, it is argued that these simulations can still provide valuable information to operational forecasters. For the research community, O(100 m) grid spacing is recommended for most applications, because a modeling system that is well founded should be desired for most purposes.

Corresponding author address: George H. Bryan, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Advanced Study Program, P. O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. Email: gbryan@ucar.edu

Abstract

The spatial resolution appropriate for the simulation of deep moist convection is addressed from a turbulence perspective. To provide a clear theoretical framework for the problem, techniques for simulating turbulent flows are reviewed, and the source of the subgrid terms in the Navier–Stokes equation is clarified.

For decades, cloud-resolving models have used large-eddy simulation (LES) techniques to parameterize the subgrid terms. A literature review suggests that the appropriateness of using traditional LES closures for this purpose has never been established. Furthermore, examination of the assumptions inherent in these closures suggests that grid spacing on the order of 100 m may be required for the performance of cloud models to be consistent with their design.

Based on these arguments, numerical simulations of squall lines were conducted with grid spacings between 1 km and 125 m. The results reveal that simulations with 1-km grid spacing do not produce equivalent squall-line structure and evolution as compared to the higher-resolution simulations. Details of the simulated squall lines that change as resolution is increased include precipitation amount, system phase speed, cloud depth, static stability values, the size of thunderstorm cells, and the organizational mode of convective overturning (e.g., upright towers versus sloped plumes). It is argued that the ability of the higher-resolution runs to become turbulent leads directly to the differences in evolution.

There appear to be no systematic trends in specific fields as resolution is increased. For example, mean vertical velocity and rainwater values increase in magnitude with increasing resolution in some environments, but decrease with increasing resolution in other environments. The statistical properties of the simulated squall lines are still not converged between the 250- and 125-m runs. Several possible explanations for the lack of convergence are offered. Nevertheless, it is clear that simulations with O(1 km) grid spacing should not be used as benchmark or control solutions for resolution sensitivity studies.

The simulations also support the contention that a minimum grid spacing of O(100 m) is required for traditional LES closures to perform appropriately for their design. Specifically, only simulations with 250- and 125-m grid spacing resolve an inertial subrange. In contrast, the 1-km simulations do not even reproduce the correct magnitude or scale of the spectral kinetic energy maximum. Furthermore, the 1-km simulations contain an unacceptably large amount of subgrid turbulence kinetic energy, and do not adequately resolve turbulent fluxes of total water.

A guide to resolution requirements for the operational and research communities is proposed. The proposal is based primarily on the intended use of the model output. Even though simulations with O(1 km) grid spacing display behavior that is unacceptable for the model design, it is argued that these simulations can still provide valuable information to operational forecasters. For the research community, O(100 m) grid spacing is recommended for most applications, because a modeling system that is well founded should be desired for most purposes.

Corresponding author address: George H. Bryan, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Advanced Study Program, P. O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. Email: gbryan@ucar.edu

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