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Douglas E. Miller and Zhuo Wang

Abstract

The representation of ENSO and NAO are examined in the Climate Forecast System, version 2 (CFSv2), reforecasts with a focus on the physical processes related to teleconnections and predictability. CFSv2 predicts ENSO well, but an eastward shift of the tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies is evident. Although it appears minor on the global scale, the shift in convection and the large-scale wave train affects the model prediction of regional climate. In contrast, NAO is predicted poorly. The anomaly correlation coefficient (ACC) between the model ensemble mean and the observation is 0.27 during 1982–2010, and the ensemble spread is large. The representation of three sources of NAO predictability—SST, the stratospheric polar vortex, and the Arctic sea ice concentration—is investigated. It is found that the link between tropical Pacific SST and NAO is not well represented in CFSv2, and that the tropospheric–stratospheric interactions are too weak, both contributing to the poor prediction of NAO. Additionally, the impact of ENSO and NAO on prediction skill of CFSv2 in boreal winter is analyzed in terms of the spatial ACC of geopotential height. Active ENSO events exhibit larger prediction skill than neutral years, especially during the ENSO+/NAO− and ENSO−/NAO+ winters. Spatial patterns of prediction skill are also examined, and larger skill of geopotential height and 2-m air temperature is found outlined by the nodes of the PNA pattern, consistent with the large signal-to-noise ratios associated with the ENSO teleconnection.

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Grey S. Nearing, Benjamin L. Ruddell, Martyn P. Clark, Bart Nijssen, and Christa Peters-Lidard

Abstract

We propose a conceptual and theoretical foundation for information-based model benchmarking and process diagnostics that provides diagnostic insight into model performance and model realism. We benchmark against a bounded estimate of the information contained in model inputs to obtain a bounded estimate of information lost due to model error, and we perform process-level diagnostics by taking differences between modeled versus observed transfer entropy networks. We use this methodology to reanalyze the recent Protocol for the Analysis of Land Surface Models (PALS) Land Surface Model Benchmarking Evaluation Project (PLUMBER) land model intercomparison project that includes the following models: CABLE, CH-TESSEL, COLA-SSiB, ISBA-SURFEX, JULES, Mosaic, Noah, and ORCHIDEE. We report that these models (i) use only roughly half of the information available from meteorological inputs about observed surface energy fluxes, (ii) do not use all information from meteorological inputs about long-term Budyko-type water balances, (iii) do not capture spatial heterogeneities in surface processes, and (iv) all suffer from similar patterns of process-level structural error. Because the PLUMBER intercomparison project did not report model parameter values, it is impossible to know whether process-level error patterns are due to model structural error or parameter error, although our proposed information-theoretic methodology could distinguish between these two issues if parameter values were reported. We conclude that there is room for significant improvement to the current generation of land models and their parameters. We also suggest two simple guidelines to make future community-wide model evaluation and intercomparison experiments more informative.

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Alexis Berg and Justin Sheffield

Abstract

Soil moisture–atmosphere coupling is a key process underlying climate variability and change over land. The control of soil moisture (SM) on evapotranspiration (ET) is a necessary condition for soil moisture to feed back onto surface climate. Here we investigate how this control manifests itself across simulations from the CMIP5 ensemble, using correlation analysis focusing on the interannual (summertime) time scale. Analysis of CMIP5 historical simulations indicates significant model diversity in SM–ET coupling in terms of patterns and magnitude. We investigate the relationship of this spread with differences in background simulated climate. Mean precipitation is found to be an important driver of model spread in SM–ET coupling but does not explain all of the differences, presumably because of model differences in the treatment of land hydrology. Compared to observations, some land regions appear consistently biased dry and thus likely overly soil moisture–limited. Because of ET feedbacks on air temperature, differences in SM–ET coupling induce model uncertainties across the CMIP5 ensemble in mean surface temperature and variability. We explore the relationships between model uncertainties in SM–ET coupling and climate projections. In particular over mid-to-high-latitude continental regions of the Northern Hemisphere but also in parts of the tropics, models that are more soil moisture–limited in the present tend to warm more in future projections, because they project less increase in ET and (in midlatitudes) greater increase in incoming solar radiation. Soil moisture–atmosphere processes thus contribute to the relationship observed across models between summertime present-day simulated climate and future warming projections over land.

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Ángel F. Adames and Yi Ming

Abstract

The mechanisms that lead to the propagation of anomalous moisture and moist static energy (MSE) in monsoon low and high pressure systems, collectively referred to as synoptic-scale monsoonal disturbances (SMDs), are investigated using daily output fields from GFDL’s atmospheric general circulation model, version 4.0 (AM4.0). On the basis of linear regression analysis of westward-propagating rainfall anomalies of time scales shorter than 15 days, it is found that SMDs are organized into wave trains of three to four individual cyclones and anticyclones. These events amplify over the Bay of Bengal, reach a maximum amplitude over the eastern coast of India, and dissipate as they approach the Arabian Sea. The structure and propagation of the simulated SMDs resemble those documented in observations. It is found that moisture and MSE anomalies exhibit similar horizontal structures in the simulated SMDs, indicating that moisture is the leading contributor to MSE. Propagation of the moisture anomalies is governed by vertical moisture advection, while the MSE anomalies propagate because of horizontal advection of dry static energy by the anomalous winds. By combining the budgets, we interpret the propagation of the moisture anomalies in terms of lifting that is forced by horizontal dry static energy advection, that is, ascent along sloping isentropes. This process moistens the lower free troposphere, producing an environment that is more favorable to deep convection. Ascent driven by radiative heating is of primary importance to the maintenance of the moisture anomalies.

Open access
Xianan Jiang, Ángel F. Adames, Ming Zhao, Duane Waliser, and Eric Maloney

Abstract

The Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) exhibits pronounced seasonality. While it is largely characterized by equatorially eastward propagation during the boreal winter, MJO convection undergoes marked poleward movement over the Asian monsoon region during summer, producing a significant modulation of monsoon rainfall. In classical MJO theories that seek to interpret the distinct seasonality in MJO propagation features, the role of equatorial wave dynamics has been emphasized for its eastward propagation, whereas coupling between MJO convection and the mean monsoon flow is considered essential for its northward propagation. In this study, a unified physical framework based on the moisture mode theory, is offered to explain the seasonality in MJO propagation. Moistening and drying caused by horizontal advection of the lower-tropospheric mean moisture by MJO winds, which was recently found to be critical for the eastward propagation of the winter MJO, is also shown to play a dominant role in operating the northward propagation of the summer MJO. The seasonal variations in the mean moisture pattern largely shape the distinct MJO propagation in different seasons. The critical role of the seasonally varying climatological distribution of moisture for the MJO propagation is further supported by the close association between model skill in representing the MJO propagation and skill at producing the lower-tropospheric mean moisture pattern. This study thus pinpoints an important direction for climate model development for improved MJO representation during all seasons.

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Yi-Hung Kuo, Kathleen A. Schiro, and J. David Neelin

Abstract

Convective transition statistics, which describe the relation between column-integrated water vapor (CWV) and precipitation, are compiled over tropical oceans using satellite and ARM site measurements to quantify the temperature and resolution dependence of the precipitation–CWV relation at fast time scales relevant to convection. At these time scales, and for precipitation especially, uncertainties associated with observational systems must be addressed by examining features with a variety of instrumentation and identifying robust behaviors versus instrument sensitivity at high rain rates. Here the sharp pickup in precipitation as CWV exceeds a certain critical threshold is found to be insensitive to spatial resolution, with convective onset occurring at higher CWV but at lower column relative humidity as bulk tropospheric temperature increases. Mean tropospheric temperature profiles conditioned on precipitation show vertically coherent structure across a wide range of temperature, reaffirming the use of a bulk temperature measure in defining the convective transition statistics. The joint probability distribution of CWV and precipitation develops a peak probability at low precipitation for CWV above critical, with rapidly decreasing probability of high precipitation below and near critical, and exhibits systematic changes under spatial averaging. The precipitation pickup with CWV is reasonably insensitive to time averaging up to several hours but is smoothed at daily time scales. This work demonstrates that CWV relative to critical serves as an effective predictor of precipitation with only minor geographic variations in the tropics, quantifies precipitation-related statistics subject to different spatial–temporal resolution, and provides a baseline for model comparison to apply these statistics as observational constraints on precipitation processes.

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Fiaz Ahmed and J. David Neelin

Abstract

The tropical precipitation–moisture relationship, characterized by rapid increases in precipitation for modest increases in moisture, is conceptually recast in a framework relevant to plume buoyancy and conditional instability in the tropics. The working hypothesis in this framework links the rapid onset of precipitation to integrated buoyancy in the lower troposphere. An analytical expression that relates the buoyancy of an entraining plume to the vertical thermodynamic structure is derived. The natural variables in this framework are saturation and subsaturation equivalent potential temperatures, which capture the leading-order temperature and moisture variations, respectively. The use of layer averages simplifies the analytical and subsequent numerical treatment. Three distinct layers, the boundary layer, the lower free troposphere, and the midtroposphere, adequately capture the vertical variations in the thermodynamic structure. The influence of each environmental layer on the plume is assumed to occur via lateral entrainment, corresponding to an assumed mass-flux profile. The fractional contribution of each layer to the midlevel plume buoyancy (i.e., the layer weight) is estimated from TRMM 3B42 precipitation and ERA-Interim thermodynamic profiles. The layer weights are used to “reverse engineer” a deep-inflow mass-flux profile that is nominally descriptive of the tropical atmosphere through the onset of deep convection. The layer weights—which are nearly the same for each of the layers—constitute an environmental influence function and are also used to compute a free-tropospheric integrated buoyancy measure. This measure is shown to be an effective predictor of onset in conditionally averaged precipitation across the global tropics—over both land and ocean.

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James F. Booth, Catherine M. Naud, and Jeff Willison

Abstract

The representation of extratropical cyclone (ETC) precipitation in general circulation models (GCMs) and the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model is analyzed. This work considers the link between ETC precipitation and dynamical strength and tests if parameterized convection affects this link for ETCs in the North Atlantic basin. Lagrangian cyclone tracks of ETCs in ERA-Interim (ERAI), GISS and GFDL CMIP5 models, and WRF with two horizontal resolutions are utilized in a compositing analysis. The 20-km-resolution WRF Model generates stronger ETCs based on surface wind speed and cyclone precipitation. The GCMs and ERAI generate similar composite means and distributions for cyclone precipitation rates, but GCMs generate weaker cyclone surface winds than ERAI. The amount of cyclone precipitation generated by the convection scheme differs significantly across the datasets, with the GISS model generating the most, followed by ERAI and then the GFDL model. The models and reanalysis generate relatively more parameterized convective precipitation when the total cyclone-averaged precipitation is smaller. This is partially due to the contribution of parameterized convective precipitation occurring more often late in the ETC’s life cycle. For reanalysis and models, precipitation increases with both cyclone moisture and surface wind speed, and this is true if the contribution from the parameterized convection scheme is larger or not. This work shows that these different models generate similar total ETC precipitation despite large differences in the parameterized convection, and these differences do not cause unexpected behavior in ETC precipitation sensitivity to cyclone moisture or surface wind speed.

Open access
Motoki Nagura, J. P. McCreary, and H. Annamalai

Abstract

This study investigates biases of the climatological mean state of the northern Arabian Sea (NAS) in 31 coupled ocean–atmosphere models. The focus is to understand the cause of the large biases in the depth of the 20°C isotherm that occur in many of them. Other prominent biases are the depth and temperature of Persian Gulf water (PGW) and the wintertime mixed-layer thickness (MLT) along the northern boundary.

For models that lack a Persian Gulf (group 1), is determined by the wintertime MLT bias through the formation of an Arabian Sea high-salinity water mass (ASHSW) that is too deep. For models with a Persian Gulf (group 2), if > MLT (group 2B), PGW remains mostly trapped to the western boundary and, again, directly controls . If MLT (group 2A), PGW spreads into the NAS and impacts because > 20°C; nevertheless still influences indirectly through its impact on .

The thick wintertime mixed layer is driven primarily by surface cooling during the fall. Nevertheless, variations in ΔMLT among the models are more strongly linked to biases in the density stratification (jump) across the bottom of the mixed layer than to biases. The jump is in turn determined primarily by sea surface salinity biases (ΔSSS) advected into the NAS by the West India Coastal Current, and the source of ΔSSS is the rainfall deficit associated with the models’ weak summer monsoon. Ultimately, then, ΔD20 is linked to this deficit.

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Daehyun Kim, Yumin Moon, Suzana J. Camargo, Allison A. Wing, Adam H. Sobel, Hiroyuki Murakami, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Ming Zhao, and Eric Page

Abstract

This study proposes a set of process-oriented diagnostics with the aim of understanding how model physics and numerics control the representation of tropical cyclones (TCs), especially their intensity distribution, in GCMs. Three simulations are made using two 50-km GCMs developed at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. The two models are forced with the observed sea surface temperature [Atmospheric Model version 2.5 (AM2.5) and High Resolution Atmospheric Model (HiRAM)], and in the third simulation, the AM2.5 model is coupled to an ocean GCM [Forecast-Oriented Low Ocean Resolution (FLOR)]. The frequency distributions of maximum near-surface wind near TC centers show that HiRAM tends to develop stronger TCs than the other models do. Large-scale environmental parameters, such as potential intensity, do not explain the differences between HiRAM and the other models. It is found that HiRAM produces a greater amount of precipitation near the TC center, suggesting that associated greater diabatic heating enables TCs to become stronger in HiRAM. HiRAM also shows a greater contrast in relative humidity and surface latent heat flux between the inner and outer regions of TCs. Various fields are composited on precipitation percentiles to reveal the essential character of the interaction among convection, moisture, and surface heat flux. Results show that the moisture sensitivity of convection is higher in HiRAM than in the other model simulations. HiRAM also exhibits a stronger feedback from surface latent heat flux to convection via near-surface wind speed in heavy rain-rate regimes. The results emphasize that the moisture–convection coupling and the surface heat flux feedback are critical processes that affect the intensity of TCs in GCMs.

Open access