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Todd Emmenegger
,
Fiaz Ahmed
,
Yi-Hung Kuo
,
Shaocheng Xie
,
Chengzhu Zhang
,
Cheng Tao
, and
J. David Neelin

Abstract

Conditional instability and the buoyancy of plumes drive moist convection but have a variety of representations in model convective schemes. Vertical thermodynamic structure information from Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) sites and reanalysis (ERA5), satellite-derived precipitation (TRMM3b42), and diagnostics relevant for plume buoyancy are used to assess climate models. Previous work has shown that CMIP6 models represent moist convective processes more accurately than their CMIP5 counterparts. However, certain biases in convective onset remain pervasive among generations of CMIP modeling efforts. We diagnose these biases in a cohort of nine CMIP6 models with subdaily output, assessing conditional instability in profiles of equivalent potential temperature, θe , and saturation equivalent potential temperature, θes , in comparison to a plume model with different mixing assumptions. Most models capture qualitative aspects of the θes vertical structure, including a substantial decrease with height in the lower free troposphere associated with the entrainment of subsaturated air. We define a “pseudo-entrainment” diagnostic that combines subsaturation and a θes measure of conditional instability similar to what entrainment would produce under the small-buoyancy approximation. This captures the trade-off between larger θes lapse rates (entrainment of dry air) and small subsaturation (permits positive buoyancy despite high entrainment). This pseudo-entrainment diagnostic is also a reasonable indicator of the critical value of integrated buoyancy for precipitation onset. Models with poor θe /θes structure (those using variants of the Tiedtke scheme) or low entrainment runs of CAM5, and models with low subsaturation, such as NASA-GISS, lie outside the observational range in this diagnostic.

Open access
Yiling Zheng
,
Chi-Yung Tam
,
Kang Xu
, and
Matthew Collins

Abstract

The Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) is the dominant mode of interannual variability in the tropical Indian Ocean (TIO), characterized by warming (cooling) in western TIO and cooling (warming) in eastern TIO during its positive (negative) phase. Observed IOD events exhibit distinct amplitude asymmetry in relation to negative nonlinear dynamic heating. Nearly all models in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) simulate a less-skewed IOD than observed, but 6 out of 20 CMIP6 models can reproduce realistic high skewness. Analysis of less-skewed models indicates that the positive IOD-like biases in the mean state, which can be traced back to their weaker simulations of the preceding Indian summer monsoon, reduce the convective response to positive sea surface temperature anomalies in the western TIO, resulting in a weaker zonal wind response and weaker nonlinear zonal advection during positive IOD events. Besides, ocean stratification in the eastern TIO influences the IOD skewness: stronger stratification leads to larger mixed-layer temperature response to thermocline changes, contributing to larger anomalous vertical temperature gradient, larger nonlinear vertical advection, and thus stronger positive IOD skewness. Our findings underscore the importance of reducing Indian summer monsoon biases and eastern TIO stratification biases, for properly representing the IOD in Earth system models.

Restricted access
Shanshan Pang
,
Xidong Wang
, and
Jérôme Vialard

Abstract

Previous studies have hypothesized that climatologically thick salinity-stratified barrier layers (BLs) in the north Indian Ocean (NIO) influence the upper ocean heat budget, sea surface temperature (SST), and monsoons. Here, we investigate how state-of-the-art Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 6 (CMIP6) climate models simulate the NIO barrier layer thickness (BLT). CMIP6 models generally reproduce the BLT seasonal cycle and spatial distribution, but with shallow November–February (NDJF) biases in regions with thick observed BLT: the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean (EEIO), Bay of Bengal (BoB), and southeastern Arabian Sea (SEAS). We show that the intensity of the CMIP6 equatorial easterly wind bias controls the EEIO shallow isothermal layer depth (ILD) and BLT biases. It also controls the BoB shallow BLT bias, both through the propagation of the EEIO shallow ILD bias into the NIO coastal waveguide and because it is linked to the BoB dry and cold bias through the Bjerknes feedback, hence also controlling the mixed layer depth (MLD) deep bias there. Finally, the SEAS shallow BLT bias is due to a too-deep MLD, in response to subdued monsoonal currents around India, which do not bring enough BoB low-salinity water. The BL insulating effect mentioned in literature does not seem to dominate in CMIP6. Rather, the CMIP6 salinity-related deep MLD biases diminish the BoB cooling rate by winter upward surface heat fluxes, reducing cold SST biases. This suggests that salinity effects alleviate the easterly equatorial wind, cold, and dry BoB biases that develop through the positive Bjerknes feedback loop in CMIP6.

Restricted access
Wenhao Dong
,
John P. Krasting
, and
Huan Guo

Abstract

The diurnal cycle of precipitation and precipitation variances at different time scales are analyzed in this study based on multiple high-resolution 3-h precipitation datasets. The results are used to evaluate nine CMIP6 models and a series of GFDL-AM4.0 model simulations, with the goal of examining the impact of SST diurnal cycle, varying horizontal resolutions, and different microphysics schemes on these two precipitation features. It is found that although diurnal amplitudes are reasonably simulated, models generally generate too early diurnal peaks over land, with a diurnal phase peaking around noon instead of the observed late afternoon (or early evening) peak. As for precipitation variances, irregular subdaily fluctuations dominate the total variance, followed by variance of daily mean precipitation and variance associated with the mean diurnal cycle. While the spatial and zonal distributions of precipitation variances are generally captured by the models, significant biases are present in tropical regions, where large mean precipitation biases are observed. The comparisons based on AM4.0 model simulations demonstrate that the inclusion of ocean coupling, adoption of a new microphysics scheme, and increasing of horizontal resolution have limited impacts on these two simulated features, emphasizing the need for future investigation into these model deficiencies at the process level. Conducting routine examinations of these metrics would be a crucial first step toward better simulation of precipitation intermittence in future model development. Last, distinct differences in these two features are found among observational datasets, highlighting the urgent need for a detailed evaluation of precipitation observations, especially at subdaily time scales, as model evaluation heavily relies on high-quality observations.

Significance Statement

High-frequency precipitation data, such as 3-hourly or finer resolution, provide detailed and precise information about the intensity, timing, and location of individual precipitation events. This information is essential for evaluating physically based numerical weather and climate models, which are important tools for understanding and predicting precipitation changes. We compared several global high-resolution observation datasets with nine CMIP6 GCMs and a series of GFDL-AM4.0 model simulations to evaluate the precipitation diurnal cycle and variance, with the goal of examining the impact of SST diurnal cycle, varying horizontal resolutions, and different microphysics schemes on these metrics. Despite the impact of these factors on the simulated precipitation diurnal cycle and variance being evident, our results also show that they are not consistently aligned with observed features. This highlights the need for further investigation into model deficiencies at the process level. Therefore, conducting routine examinations of these metrics could be a crucial first step toward improving the simulation of precipitation intermittency in future model development. Additionally, given the large uncertainties, there is an urgent need for a detailed evaluation of observational precipitation products, particularly at subdaily time scales.

Open access
Xiaofang Feng
,
Qinghua Ding
,
Liguang Wu
,
Charles Jones
,
Huijun Wang
,
Mitchell Bushuk
, and
Dániel Topál

Abstract

The central role of tropical sea surface temperature (SST) variability in modulating Northern Hemisphere (NH) extratropical climate has long been known. However, the prevailing pathways of teleconnections in observations and the ability of climate models to replicate these observed linkages remain elusive. Here, we apply maximum covariance analysis between atmospheric circulation and tropical SST to reveal two coexisting tropical–extratropical teleconnections albeit with distinctive spatiotemporal characteristics. The first mode, resembling the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern, favors a tropical–Arctic in-phase (warm Pacific–warm Arctic) teleconnection in boreal spring and winter. However, the second mode, with a slight seasonal preference of summer, is manifested as an elongated Rossby wave train emanating from the tropical eastern Pacific that features an out-of-phase relationship (cold Pacific–warm Arctic) between tropical central Pacific SSTs and temperature variability over the Arctic (referred to as the PARC mode). While climate models participating in phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) appear to successfully simulate the PNA mode and its temporal characteristics, the majority of models’ skill in reproducing the PARC mode is obstructed to some extent by biases in simulating low-frequency SST and rainfall variability over the tropical eastern Pacific and the climatological mean flow over the North Pacific during boreal summer. Considering the contribution of the PARC mode in shaping low-frequency climate variations over the past 42 years from the tropics to the Arctic, improving models’ capability to capture the PARC mode is essential to reduce uncertainties associated with decadal prediction and climate change projection over the NH.

Significance Statement

This study focuses on the skill of models in phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) in simulating two leading observed Northern Hemisphere (NH) teleconnections that show distinctive spatial and temporal characteristics. The first one, the Pacific–North American (PNA) mode, exhibits a warm Pacific–warm Arctic pattern in boreal spring and winter, and the second one, the Pacific–Arctic (PARC) mode, features a cold Pacific–warm Arctic out-of-phase relationship. We find that models are skillful in simulating the PNA mode but not the PARC mode. This limitation may be rooted in unrealistic simulations of the mean state of winds and the low-frequency sea surface temperature variability in the tropical eastern Pacific. These biases call for caution when interpreting current models’ projections of extratropical circulations on multidecadal time scales.

Restricted access
Caitlin A. Dirkes
,
Allison A. Wing
,
Suzana J. Camargo
, and
Daehyun Kim

Abstract

Global models are frequently used for tropical cyclone (TC) prediction and climate projections but have biases in their representation of TCs that are not fully understood. The objective of this work is to assess how well and how robustly physical processes that are important for TC development are represented in modern reanalysis products and to consider whether reanalyses can serve as an observationally constrained reference against which model representation of these physical processes can be evaluated. Differences in the representation of large-scale environmental variables relevant to TC development do not readily explain the spread in TC climatologies across climate models, as found in prior work, or across reanalysis datasets, as shown here. This motivates the use of process-oriented diagnostics that focus on how convection, moisture, clouds, and related processes are coupled and can be used to identify areas to target for model improvement. Using the column-integrated moist static energy (MSE) variance budget, we analyze radiative and surface flux feedbacks across five different reanalyses. We construct an intensity-bin composite of the MSE variance budget to compare storms of similar intensity. Our results point to some fundamental differences across reanalyses in how they represent MSE variance and surface flux and radiative feedbacks in TCs, which could contribute to differences across reanalyses in how they represent TCs, but other factors also likely contribute. Any future work that evaluates these diagnostics in GCMs against reanalyses should do so cautiously, and efforts should be undertaken to provide a true observational estimate of these processes.

Restricted access
Huaxia Liao
,
Zhichao Cai
,
Jingsong Guo
, and
Zhenya Song

Abstract

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the most influential interannual climate variability on Earth. The tendency of the mature phase of ENSO, characterized by the strongest sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies, to appear during the boreal winter is known as seasonal phase locking. Climate models are challenged by biases in simulating ENSO seasonal phase locking. Here, we evaluated the ENSO phase-locking simulation performance in 50 models of phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) and found that the models with the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) poleward bias tended to simulate more ENSO events that peaked out of the boreal winter season. The contributions of the ITCZ poleward bias to the ENSO phase-locking bias were also evaluated, yielding a correlation coefficient of 0.55, which can explain approximately 30% of the ENSO seasonal phase-locking bias. The mechanism that influences the simulation of ENSO seasonal phase locking was also assessed. The ITCZ poleward bias induces a dry bias over the equatorial Pacific, especially during the boreal summer. During ENSO events, the meridional movement of the ITCZ is prevented, and the equatorial precipitation and convection anomalies that respond to ENSO events are also restrained. The restrained convection anomaly weakens the ENSO-related zonal wind anomaly, triggering a weaker eastern tropical Pacific thermocline anomaly during the following autumn. The weakened thermocline anomaly cannot sustain further development of ENSO-related SST anomalies. Therefore, ENSO events in models containing the ITCZ poleward bias are restrained during the boreal summer and autumn and, thus, tend to peak out of the winter season.

Significance Statement

We aimed to better understand the mechanism that induces bias when simulating ENSO seasonal phase locking, that is, what disturbs the simulated ENSO events peaking during the boreal winter. As previous studies have primarily focused on the South Pacific convergence zone (SPCZ) bias and other biases, this study is the first to propose the effects of the poleward ITCZ latitude bias and clarify the corresponding mechanism. We show that latitudinal bias can explain approximately 30% of the ENSO seasonal phase-locking bias. This is important because the biases in simulating ENSO seasonal phase locking have long hampered the prediction of ENSO. Our study highlights the importance of the latitude of the ITCZ and provides a basis for the future development of climate models.

Open access
Jiacheng Ye
and
Zhuo Wang

Abstract

Many coupled climate models suffer from a late retreat bias in North American monsoon (NAM) simulations, which is manifested by overestimated precipitation in October. The overestimated precipitation has long been attributed to the negative sea surface temperature (SST) biases in the tropical Atlantic and insufficient model resolution to resolve mesoscale features. However, we found little correlation between CMIP6 model resolutions and the simulated NAM retreat-season precipitation in October. Instead, we showed that tropical eastern North Pacific SST biases and the associated large-scale circulation biases play a dominant role in inducing the retreat-season biases, with SST biases in other ocean basins playing a secondary role. As revealed by simulations using a hierarchy of models, the positive SST biases in the tropical eastern North Pacific enhance local convection and lead to positive diabatic heating biases throughout the troposphere; the diabatic heating biases generate a Matsuno–Gill type of response that strengthens the subtropical high over the North Atlantic and weakens the subtropical high over the North Pacific, enhancing the low-level northward moisture transport from the tropics to the NAM region. The conclusion is robust across phase 6 of CMIP (CMIP6) models. The precipitation seasonality in the NAM region is used to constrain future projection. The “good” CMIP6 models project that the timing of the NAM peak season remains the same, but the peak-season precipitation is reduced and monsoon retreat is delayed, while the “poor” CMIP6 models project a delayed monsoon peak season with slightly enhanced peak-season precipitation. Both model groups project a drier dry season in the NAM region.

Free access
Jiaxin Ye
,
Chaoxia Yuan
,
Mengzhou Yang
,
Xinyu Lu
,
Jing-Jia Luo
, and
Toshio Yamagata

Abstract

Significant anomalies in frequency of summer extreme hot days (SEHDs) are broadly observed in the Asian monsoon region (AMR) in the post-ENSO summers. The delayed ENSO impacts are mainly conveyed by provoking the Indo-western Pacific Ocean capacitor (IPOC) effect that maintains the anomalous anticyclone in the western North Pacific. The related diabatic heating anomaly can trigger the westward-propagating Rossby wave to the Indian subcontinent, which increases the geopotential heights, reduces the cloud cover, and thus increases the seasonal surface temperature and SEHD frequency in the southern AMR. Besides, the reduced atmospheric moisture in the western North Pacific hinders the northward propagation of intraseasonal oscillation (ISO) and modulates the occurrence frequency of individual ISO phases, contributing to the significantly increased/decreased SEHDs in eastern China/Hokkaido, Japan, in the post–El Niño summers. The 25-model-ensemble mean of CMIP6 historical runs can reproduce well the observed SEHD anomalies in the southern AMR in the post-ENSO summers mainly due to the realistic simulation of ENSO impacts on the seasonal surface temperature, although a large intermodel spread exists due to different strengths of IPOC effect in each model owing to model biases in the mean state of the eastern tropical Pacific, the ENSO variance, and teleconnection to the Indian Ocean. Furthermore, future projections under the SSP5-8.5 scenario show that the delayed ENSO impacts on the southern AMR remain stable under global warming via a similar mechanism as in the observations and historical runs.

Free access
H. Annamalai
,
Richard B. Neale
, and
Jan Hafner

Abstract

Climate model fidelity in representing ENSO-induced teleconnection is assessed with process-oriented diagnostics that examine a chain of processes, from equatorial Pacific precipitation to the midlatitude circulation pattern over the Pacific–North American regions. Such processes are rarely addressed during model development. Using an upper-tropospheric divergent level, local vorticity gradient of the ambient zonal flow ( 2 U ¯ / y 2 ) and a restoring force for Rossby waves ( β * ) are estimated, the equivalent barotropic vorticity equation is solved, and an anomalous Rossby wave source (RWS′) quantified. The analysis is applied to AMIP5 and AMIP6 simulations. For a realistic circulation response representation, the hypothesis that models accurately represent the strength and location of RWS′, and spatial variations in β * is tested. Compared to AMIP5, in AMIP6 there are clear improvements in representing RWS′ and β * . To validate the hypothesis, the analysis identifies two metrics: spatially coherent RWS′ in the subtropical North Pacific, and longitudes of negative β * over the western-central North Pacific. By projecting these metrics in two and three-dimensional views, improvements or degradations in model versions are apparent. If a model’s fidelity in representing 2 U ¯ / y 2 and RWS′ are compromised, then radiated Rossby waves are reflected more equatorward, resulting in zonally elongated circulation anomalies over the central North Pacific. Thus, during climate model development, applying this analysis frequently will keep a regular check on the fidelity of the modeled response to anomalous El Niño convection in conjunction with changing model ambient flow dependencies. This analysis is intended to form a process-oriented diagnostics package, a community contribution to the NOAA Model Diagnostics Task Force.

Significance Statement

The seasonal changes in tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures associated with El Niño events can have a significant impact in the atmospheric circulation through the North Pacific and on the annual climate variations over North America. Our skill in predicting these impacts depends critically on the ability of climate models to represent these global-scale connections accurately. We show a number of metrics that describe critical processes along this North Pacific pathway that can be used to examine the progress in climate model skill. In the future, these models could benefit significantly from using these metrics with the end goal of much improved predictions of El Niño–related variability.

Free access